Encores and Curtain Calls

Life without drama is no life at all

“All playwrights should be dead for 300 years.”

— Joseph L. Mankiewicz Academy Award-winning
writer, director, producer

The human mind cannot for long bear a void — an empty canvas; it seems it has to be busy painting a picture, or telling itself something to keep a narrative going about itself and its life. We homo sapiens are storytellers by nature or, at least, story listeners and watchers. Just utter, in one form or another, the words, “Once upon a time,” and we are lost, captives of the plot and all its permutations.

After all, what’s the alternative? To go through life storyless, dramaless, passionless, who in a human body would every wish such a fate upon themselves or upon another? Better to live in a fiction than in a plotless continuum.

Thus, drama had to be born, whether in word, song, story, play, opera or any other dramatic confabulations humanity has contrived; and so it is that the average American watches 6 hours and 47 minutes television per day, and 66 percent of Americans watch television even while having their dinner.

That’s a lot of stories.

When my good mother packed me off, at 12, to my first summer at camp in New Hampshire, I was initiated into what was to be a lifelong passion for the kingdom of nature: for lake swimming and three-day Connecticut River canoe overnights, for hikes up the White Mountains and for all things New England.

But glorious and pervasive at it all was, we found ourselves taking leave of Nature’s presence and creating and conjuring new worlds, whether it was through painting, music, drama or creative writing, or even our weekly Saturday night folk dances.

It was in these dark, mysterious regions of creation, imagination and reflection that we came to truly find and give voice to ourselves — our hopes, fears, fascinations and obsessions — to express and externalize them in ways that others could see and hear and resonate to.

This, of all places, is where I first came to find the courage to begin sharing my music — to risk plunking myself before a dining hall full of people and singing or even teaching an original song, or writing, directing and producing an entire stage musical rife with tragedy and triumph, and replete with mini-orchestra and a cast of dozens.

Which is a long way of saying that even with Monday Night Football as epidemic as it seems to be, the arts and all the drama in which they inundate us will be with us for the duration. With that in mind, here's a bird’s-eye view of fall theater breakouts in the region:

An American classic

The New Renaissance Players production of Arthur Miller’s Tony and Pulitzer-prize winning masterpiece “ Death of a Salesman,” is in mid-run at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls, through Oct. 6.

Directed by Michael Glazier, this 1949 play traces the poignant tale of Willy Loman (note the symbolic resonance of the last name), a decent but weary soul whose season on earth has peaked and plummeted and whose growing “life of quiet desperation” and the spreading ripples it creates, quietly cut to the very bone.

Performances: Friday, Oct. 4, at 8 p.m., Saturday, Oct. 5, at 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, Oct. 6, at 2 p.m., a 3-hour production. Tickets are $12

The Shea Theater, 71 Avenue A, Turners Falls, 413-863-2281

Quick, before it’s over

A new play every 10 minutes! The 2013 Ten Minute Play Festival is already under way the Actors Theater Playhouse, just outside Brattleboro in Chesterfield, N.H., running Friday and Saturday evenings, 7:30 p.m., through Oct. 12; only $8 a seat.

The 10-minute play phenomenon has become an increasingly popular genre throughout the theater world, challenging playwrights, directors and actors alike to "get it on" as directly and viscerally as possible, preambles and developments cast to the winds. If it’s good, look sharp, because it’ll be gone in a few minutes and if it’s not, no worry, it’ll be over before you know it!

Among the provocative themes:

“A funeral reveals many kinds of love”

“One therapy session may not be enough for a suffering actress”

“Two men become trapped in each other’s nightmare”

“A controlling mother nearly kills her daughter over a cemetery plot”

“A young woman who steps out of a mirror to confront her lover”

“Two neighbors who discover how to be ‘ordinary superheroes’”

Actors Theater Playhouse, corner or Brook and Main streets, West Chesterfield, N.H. Toll Free Box Office, 802-254-4714. www.ATPlayhouse.org

A new kids musical

The premiere of a new children's musical entitled “The Doll People,” comes to Smith College, Oct. 18, 19, 24 and 25 at 8 p.m. And Oct. 26 at 2 p.m. in Theatre 14. It is based on the children’s novel by Ann M. Martin and Laura Godwin, and adapted for stage by Jahnna Beecham and Malcolm Hillgartner. Direction is by Ellen W. Kaplan.

Future playwrights showcased

The Keene State College Department of Theatre and Dance will be presenting the Premiere Series, a festival of new plays featuring original works by young playwrights. Each play was initiated in 1989 by professor Daniel Patterson. It allows for each new work to be performed on two occasions in the format of a theatrical reading.

“I’m the sole judge and jury who decides what plays will be in the festival,” says Patterson. “A stage reading, in which actors are reading from the script, focuses on hearing the play with actors interpreting the characters and playing off each other.”

Among the offerings, “Thanksgiving” by Taylor Jorgenson, Thursday and Friday, Oct. 3 and Oct. 4; “The Speck in My Eye,” by Sarah Coitoru, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 9 and Oct. 10; “Lofe, Life and Liberty,” by Hersch Rothmel, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 16 and Oct. 17; and “Bigfoot,” by Daniel Bullard, Wednesday and Thursday, Oct. 23 and Oct. 24.

All plays start at 7:30 p.m. And take place in the Wright Theater of the Redfern Arts Center on the Keene State campus. Tickets are $10 for adults, $8 for seniors and youth and $6 for students.

Box office: 603-358-2168; www.keene.edu/racbp.

An author and composer, columnist Joseph Marcello of Northfield focuses on music and theater. He ca n be reached at

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