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The Albany Buzz

You might not be tempted to pick up any trinkets or city themed items while you're out in Albany - but there is one gift you must experience this month, and it's Souvenir at Capital Repertory Theatre.

souvenir.jpgThe latest production at TheREP, Souvenir brings us the story of Florence Foster Jenkins - notoriously one of the worst opera singers to perform. And sure, hearing that as the premise you might think to yourself "Why would I want to watch someone sing horribly? I can do that at home!" (or maybe you're a great singer... I am not), but the play is so funny, so heartfelt, so entertaining that you will fall in love.

Told from the perspective of Cosme McMoon, who played piano for Foster Jenkins, the piece is a remembrance of his time with the late, not-so-great singer. As McMoon (Jonas Cohen) recounts his time with Foster Jenkins we follow along from their first meeting to their final performance.

The first time he listens to her, McMoon - a financially struggling musician and songwriter - can hardly believe what he's hearing. Initially trying to get out of playing piano for her performance, which is to be held in front of family and friends, McMoon suddenly considers his rent and agrees because "it's only one performance."

That one becomes 12 years of performing together.

As word gets out about Foster Jenkins (Georga Osborne), the number of performances grows, eventually reaching a sold out show at Carnegie Hall.

McMoon describes how hysterical audience members fill their mouths with handkerchiefs, run from their seats, and double over in laughter while she sings. For her part, "Madam Flo" doesn't hear it. In her mind, the lights glow brighter; the admiration and awe only grow.
On multiple occasions, when McMoon is fed up with how often (meaning every single time she sings) she misses notes, Foster Jenkins insists he not get upset with himself or the piano for being off key.

Performed perfectly by Osborne and Cohen, the play is a touching celebration of a woman of whom you've probably never heard - but, upon seeing Souvenir, you'll likely never forget. To be sure, the piece is laugh out loud funny, but it also pays tribute to a caring, familial relationship built between McMoon and Foster Jenkins. McMoon swings between being embarrassed for her and being her protector - much as you might feel about, say, your parents. 

The show as a whole is a wonderful experience not to be missed, but the beautiful ending might brings tears to your eyes - and, this time anyway, not from laughing.

Souvenir plays at Capital Repertory Theatre through March 22, 2015. Tickets are available at the box office (111 N Pearl Street), by phone at 518.445.7469, or online at capitalrep.org 

Photo from Capital Repertory Theatre's Facebook page.

Calling all teen playwrights!

Downtown Albany's Capital Repertory Theatre (located at 111 N Pearl Street) is seeking entries for its inaugural Young Playwright Contest. The new program features work by teens, for teens, and starring teens.

CapRepExterior7.2008.JPGIn total, five 10-minute plans will be professionally produced on the Capital Repertory Theatre stage with costumes, props, and sets designed and built by the theatre's staff. Additionally, all plays will be directed by theREP's assistant to the artistic director, Margaret E. Hall, and performed by theREP's new Summer Stage Young Acting Company.

But that's not all!

The five contest-winning playwrights will all receive an exclusive mentorship in June 2015, during which each writer will have ample time to work one-on-one with a professional playwright.

And even that's not all!

Winning playwrights will also receive an invitation to the first read through of their plays by the acting company, an invitation to the opening night performance, and four complimentary tickets to further performances.

The small print (read: submission guidelines):

  • Playwrights must be at least 13 years old and no older than 19 years old at the time of submission, and must reside within a 90-mile radius of Albany, NY
  • Plays must be no longer than 10 minutes in length
  • Plays may have no more than seven characters and may include one - and only one - adult character. The additional characters must range from 8 to 20-years-old
  • Submissions must include the line "See, what happened was..."
  • Submissions should include the Young Playwrights Application (found here) along with the script, both in digital format
  • Submissions should be sent to Margaret E. Hall at mhall@capitalrep.org with Young Playwright Contest Submission in the subject line by Monday, March 30, 2015.

Submissions will be evaluated on creativity, dialogue, character development, plot structure, and the inclusion of the line mentioned above. Contest winners will be announced on Friday, April 3, 2015 and production dates are August 12-16, 2015.

Good luck, all you young playwrights!

confetti.jpgBefore we get started, I have one thing to admit: While I'd heard of Waiting for Godot before I went to see it last weekend, I didn't know much about it.

I'm of the mindset that if I'm going to see something new, I don't want to do much research. So, without knowing much, I headed to the Confetti Stage performance in Downtown.
The performance space, at the Masonic Temple at 67 Corning Place, is intimate - which feels appropriate from the moment the actors step out.

For those - like me - with minimal or no information about Waiting for Godot, the play is an absurdist (focusing on characters' experiences where they can find no purpose in life) play by Samuel Beckett. Here, we have Vladimir (Patrick White) and Estragon (Stephen Henel) who are - no shock here - waiting for Godot. We don't know much about this person - nor, does it seem, do they.

In what appears to be a barren land, the two are accompanied on stage by a rock and tree. As you might imagine, it leaves little for them to discuss and conversation is strained at times. There are three other characters in the play, Pozzo (John A. Nickles), Lucky (Kasey Kenyon) and the boy (David DiPaola). When Pozzo and Lucky make their first appearance, the pair provides a much-needed distraction for Vladimir and Estragon; the boy, on the other hand, delivers the blowing news that Godot will not be coming today, but will tomorrow.

The cast is fantastic, right from the minute they start performing. White and Henel make the play feel human. Sure, maybe you've never been in a position destitute, but it's easy to think that if you were you'd act just like Vladimir and Estragon do.

The play is intense, and uncomfortable at times, but that's by design. Described as a "tragicomedy," it's an intimate look at what happens when you don't have much for which to hope. The pair goes between laughing about the good 'ole times to wishing the lone tree had branches strong enough so they can hang themselves. What you're witness to is raw human emotion - for better or worse. Vladimir and Estragon find, simultaneously, comfort and discomfort in each other.

This isn't a play that has a neat beginning, middle, and end. I left with a lot of questions and thought a lot about it after we left the venue - and that's not something that happens a lot (for me anyway) when it comes to theatre. Whether you have seen the play before, or are looking for something new to experience, I highly recommend this production.

Don't wait too long to get your tickets, it only plays through March 8, 2015. For more information, or to purchase tickets, visit www.confettistage.org or call 518.460.1167.

Valentines Day at Penthouse Catering @ TASTE
5 Course Prix Fixe Menu
$67 per Person, Does not include beverages, tax or gratuity

Spend a romantic evening overlooking the Albany skyline with your love at Taste's Penthouse facilities. Greeted by a champagne cocktail sampler, relax in your partner's company while sampling cuisine artfully designed to be shared and enjoyed. Reservations requested. 518.694.3322 or www.tastealbany.com. 45 Beaver Street 


Soup
Lobster Bisque
   Apple Cider & Ginger Accents

Mushroom Consommé
   Braised Lamb, Pickled Radish, Baby Greens

Winter Squash Bisque
   Maple Bourbon Syrup, Sage Crème

Salad
Taste Salad
   Dried Fruits & Candied Nuts, Pomegranate Vinaigrette

Butterleaf
   Roasted Beets, Bleu Cheese, Pine Nuts, Pancetta Vinaigrette

Baby Romaine
   Truffle Cheddar, White Balsamic Vinaigrette, Grapes & Golden Raisins

Appetizer
Seared Montauk Yellowfin Tuna
   Purple & Gold Beet Coulis, Mustard Greens

Pork "Lechon"
   Sweet Ponzu Glaze, Horseradish Celery Salad

Artichoke Ragout
   Sundried Tomato, Winter Greens, Roasted Fennel

Entrée
New Bedford Sea Scallops
   Cashew Butter, Poached Mushrooms, Baby Bok Choy

Veal Cheeks
   Red Wine & Rosemary Braised, Smoked Tomato Mascarpone Risotto, Brookline

Moulard Duck Breast
   Espresso Date Puree, Roasted Root Vegetables

Oven Roasted Beef Tenderloin
    Sweet & Gold Gratin, Asparagus, Sriracha Demi Glace

Vegetarian "Cassoulet"
   Exotic Mushrooms, Winter Squash, Baby Potatoes, Hickory   Scented Kidney Beans

Chef Inspired Dessert Station
Coffee and Tea Presented Tableside

Thumbnail image for La Serre.jpgThis Valentine's Day, La Serre is offering a prix-fixe menu for couples and more traditional options for those who prefer to design their own meal. Located at 14 Green Street in downtown Albany, NY, reservations can be made by calling 518.463.6056.

Cupid's Choice
$129.00 per couple
Menu:
Lobster Ravioli with blush vodka sauce
Caesar Salad
Passion Fruit Sorbet
Chateaubrian ~ Roast Filet for two
Selection from Dessert Cart
Fansz Sparkling Rose Toast
 
Menu
Appetizer      
Lump Crab & Jumbo Shrimp Cocktail  16
Escargot   Roasted tomato & garlic butter  12
Pâté Maison   Mousse style blend of duck & goose   11
Beef Carpaccio   Truffle oil, lava sea salt   & parmesan  13
 
Soup
Seafood Bisque   9
 
Salad
Caesar Salad   Romaine, garlic croutons, dusted with romano cheese and filet of anchovies    10
Nicolina Mixed greens tossed with lemon herb vinaigrette, portabellas, chevre & roasted peppers   10
Iceberg Wedge Bleu cheese, crispy bacon   10
 
Entrée
Hudson Valley Breast of Duck  a la orange 32
Lobster Ravioli   Egg & squid ink pasta, roma tomatoes  in a sage & garlic butter    28
Pomegranate Salmon   Seared, soy scented tangy molasses   29
Wild Mushroom Ravioli Truffle cream, exotic mushroom, parmesan & Taleggio  24
Sliced Tenderloin of Beef & Shrimp Scampi   Filet mignon with jumbo shrimp in roasted garlic butter   39
Chicken Reggiano Panko crusted with parmesan in a creamy sun dried tomato sauce 26
Stuffed Portabella Mushroom Greens, roasted red peppers & imported provolone 24
Classic Bolognese Paparadelle   A blend of pork, beef & sausage, tomato ragu  26

Victory CafeFor Valentine's Day this year, Victory Café offers the following special dinner menu. Price is $26.99 per person. Located at 10 Sheridan Avenue in downtown Albany, NY, reservations can be made by calling 518.463.9113.

Appetizer (Choice of 1)

  • Spinach leaves, pine nuts, dried cranberries tossed in a zesty dressing
  • Lobster Salad Cocktail served in a cocktail glass with a wedge of lemon
  • Cucumber Appetizer Cups filled with lobster salad and a lemon wedge

Entrée (Choice of 1)

  • Baked Salmon with cucumber cream sauce, red potatoes, snow peas and julienne carrots with a lemon vinaigrette
  • NY Strip Steak house seasoned and grilled to your liking, served with mashed potatoes and asparagus
  • Chicken Marsala served with mashed potatoes, snow peas and julienne carrots with a lemon vinaigrette

Dessert

  • Apple Dumpling served with vanilla ice cream and caramel sauce 

Looking to add a little something fun and fashionable (and affordable) to your wardrobe with a stop in one of Downtown's newest retailers - Fashions Unique!

Previously located on Delaware Avenue in Albany, shop owners Charlie Mae Shipmon-Gardiner and James Gardiner say the move to Downtown was a great business decision and they look forward to providing an "elegant look for consumers at reasonable prices."

Located at 153 South Pearl Street, the shop features purses, jewelry, clothing and more. Stop in and see for yourself and stay tuned for more news and photos from Fashions Unique.

Open Monday - Saturday 10:00 AM to 7:00 PM. Like them on Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/Aashai98

Fashions Unique store.JPGFashions Unique accessories.JPGFashions Unique clothes.JPG 


I love this time of year. It's a time to take a deep breath after the bustle of the holiday season. It's a time to regroup. It's a time to clean out the office fridge. And it's a time to reflect on the year's accomplishments and look ahead to the next year. 

This year, our agency accomplished a lot! 

We firmed up our calendar of events, and can now say definitively that we host seven annual events on Central Avenue--making this one rocking street. The public can visit us any time--and we really mean that--but events like "Drawing Up Central" and the annual "Scarecrows on the Avenue" contest represent a great time to come to the Avenue and see what our businesses have to offer. We also launched "ArtTV" this year, an innovative public art program that shows artists' work inside five busy bus stations on Central Avenue. 

We also got a lot of press. And while I never tire of seeing my own name, "Confidential Sources" come up in the news, what I really get excited about is seeing "Central Avenue" pop up on my Google News Alert. That happened a lot this year, with stories on everything from our restaurants to Westgate Plaza, proving that Central Avenue is one dynamic, happening place to be. And as if to shore up that point, we welcomed a bumper crop of new businesses to Central Avenue this year, including:
 
  • Jacqueline's Dominican Style Beauty Salon, 132 Central Avenue
  • Champy's Jamaican American Cuisine, 56 Central Avenue
  • Irie Vybez, 313 Central Avenue
  • Parkside Apartments, 260 Washington Avenue
  • Posigen Solar, 997 Central Avenue
  • Nicolas Morales State Farm Agency, 142 Central Avenue
  • The Low Beat, 335 Central Avenue
  • New York State Preservation League Resource Center, 44 Central Avenue
  • ATAX, 979 Central Avenue
10257675_10152346242069284_1593208489171558572_n.jpg

This year, we continued to plug our businesses, seeking out opportunities to raise awareness about the district's diverse offerings both on and off-site. We printed another 1,000 copies of the Central Avenue Dining Guide, which we distributed at visitor destinations across the region. We also took our goody bags, packed with materials from our district businesses to conferences and expos across the region. We also coordinated with restaurants and grocery stores to provide samples of our food to several dining events, giving people one more reason to visit Central Avenue the next time they're eating out. 

10501718_10152810799654284_7263413006401375438_n.jpg
This time of year is also a time to plan for the future. 

In 2015, we can look forward to several new programs on Central Avenue, including An International Affair, a new dining and cultural series presented by the International Center of the Capital Region at The Linda, WAMC's Performing Arts Studio. The first, which will focus on Japan, will take place on April 23, with subsequent evenings focusing on India, Kenya, and Brazil. 

We will also launch a re-branding campaign for our arts and entertainment district. While many of you have probably noticed the increasing number of cool things taking place around Quail and Central -- witness, for example, "Sunday Funday" and "Rockin' Brunch" events at The Low Beat, or "Food for Thought" film screenings and "Nitty Gritty Slams" at the Linda, or "Word Fest"-related events and world-class blues acts at Pauly's Hotel -- we will be looking to really push that more into the public eye this year. 

In 2014, we created a new brand for this mini-district, and in 2015, we will launch that brand, complete with a signage, programming, and streetscape enhancements. 

Stay tuned. We can't wait to make this year great! 




20141114_171124.jpg

When it comes to decorating for the holidays, there's nothing as dazzling as the collective creativity of youngsters. Each year, the Central Avenue Business Improvement District works with elementary students from Blessed Sacrament School, Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys, Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, and the Albany City School's Montessori Magnet School to craft stars for Central Avenue's Shopping District.

This year, students decorated 800 stars to grace the fences at the district's west end, including those in front of Westgate Plaza, Hannaford Plaza, and ShopRite Plaza.

photo 5.JPG

"We love this project because it harnesses the creative talents of so many, and provides an opportunity for businesses and residents to work together to beautify the district," says Anthony Capece, Executive Director for the Central Avenue Business Improvement District.

At Brighter Choice Charter School for Girls, the students painted stars during the after school program. Each student worked hard to make sure that the stars were completely covered with paint. "The scholars were so enthused about painting that they didn't even realize they had paint on their hands and faces! They loved the idea that others would have the chance to enjoy their creativeness," says Sheyla Escoto, Afterschool Program Coordinator.

10847985_10152846784314284_1479632133553670857_n.jpg

"This is the third year Brighter Choice Charter Schools has participated in the Star Program and we love it!  The students are excited to decorate the stars, and are thrilled when they are able to see them up on display for the city to see," says Jada Schmidt, Visual Arts Educator, Brighter Choice Charter School for Boys. "This program helps give them a sense of pride in the work that they create because they are able to see others enjoy it all season!"


Each year, this project gets bigger, and it simply wouldn't be possible without the additional support of our generous "Star Sponsors": Hannaford and ShopRite. We also want to express our appreciation for our "Star Student Supporters": American Glass Company of Albany, Honest Weight Food Co-op, Hudson Valley Community College, Danker Florist, Lexington Vacuum, and Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany.

"The holiday season is a special time of year, when generations of children have experienced the joy of creating and sharing art they made by hand," said Hannaford Community Relations Specialist Amy White. "Hannaford is thrilled to be part of realizing this holiday tradition, as part of a program that our Central Avenue supermarket associates and customers can enjoy."

"As a member of the Central Avenue community, Hudson Valley Community College is pleased to support this effort, which not only helps celebrate the holiday spirit but also the creativity of Albany's elementary school children," said HVCC President Drew Matonak.

"All of us at NABA appreciate the work that the Central Avenue BID does throughout the year, but we especially like participating in a holiday event that shows off Central Avenue and includes our neighbors and the creative work of so many children," says Christopher T. Burke, Executive Director/CEO of Northeastern Association of the Blind at Albany.

Tracy Abbott, co-owner of American Glass Company of Albany said the project is a great way to get children involved in the neighborhood. "Obviously, the CBID has done a lot to upgrade the way Central Avenue looks, and this is a nice way to get the children involved in that effort, and in the larger community," Abbott says.

The stars and holiday garland will be hung on the fences in front of Hannaford Plaza, ShopRite Plaza, Westgate Plaza, Monro Muffler, and Mavis Discount Tire through the first week of January. Please stop by and see these students' beautiful work.


It's not every day you're inspired to call something hauntingly beautiful, but The Secret Garden at Capital Repertory Theatre easily achieves it.

Centering around the tragic events of a young girl (Mary Lennox, played by Brittany Ross) and the chaos she endures early in life - and that which she initially inflicts on others - the secret garden.jpgplay is set in 1906 India and England. A time when cholera has taken a massive toll on the population, it is death and life that both threaten to tear distant family members apart and bring them together.

In the play's early moments, Lennox suffers the loss of her parents and is quickly swept away to her uncle's (Archibald Craven, played by Cole Burden) manor in North Yorkshire. Throughout the performance Ross physically and emotionally maneuvers easily from moments of elation to righteous indignation directed toward her cousin and uncle, among other people.

Upon her arrival in England, Mary is described as bland and sour, only starting to warm up to her new surroundings once she discovers the gardens. It is the secret garden, though, that is the catalyst for her emotional evolution. In her effort to find the key and door to the overgrown garden, she embraces the bedridden Colin, works to aid in his recovery and fights for the manor's future.

Characters who have died are a near constant presence on the stage, dancing between reality and dreams (at times literally), singing out to their loved ones. Most heard and addressed is Lily (Mollie Vogt-Welch), the mother of Colin and wife of Archibald.  Vogt-Welch and Burden boast astounding, heart-wrenching voices. As the depressed Craven, Burden cries out to Vogt-Welch so achingly well it feels less like you're in the heart of downtown Albany and more like you're privy to an opera.  Matching his talent is the angelic voice of Vogt-Welch, who has in fact performed at the Metropolitan Opera.

For their parts, both the garden and Colin are spoken of far more frequently than they are secret-garden.jpgseen, but each has an indelible roll to play. In fact, the garden is hardly seen at all which places the focus less on the blooming flowers and more on the blossoming characters.
There is, as you've come to expect at TheREP, an immense amount of talent on stage and behind the scenes. In The Secret Garden each cast member, even those who grace the stage only momentarily, leaves a mark on the audience.

With sweeping, beautiful choreography and songs you can't help but have an emotional reaction to, The Secret Garden is not to be missed. Consider it Capital Repertory Theatre's gift to the Capital Region, and the perfect addition to the holiday season, a time when we look for the best in ourselves and others. 

The Secret Garden runs through December 21, 2014 at Capital Repertory Theatre, 111 N Pearl Street. For performance schedule and ticket information, visit http://www.capitalrep.org/theatre/2014-2015/secret-garden

The Albany Buzz Bloggers:

Downtown Albany Business Improvement District

Exciting Entertainment. World-Class Dining. Exquisite Art and Culture. Luxury Residential Opportunities. Since 1996, the Downtown Albany Business Improvement District (BID) has worked in Albany's central business district making a direct impact through three core initiatives: business development, marketing and quality of life. From assisting developers to realize unique residential spaces to working one-on-one with business owners on their marketing plans, the BID is on the street day-in and day-out, ensuring that downtown Albany is the premier Capital Region destination for businesses, employees, residents, and visitors. Learn more about the BID at downtownalbany.org or .


Lark Street Business Improvement District

Lark Street is the vibrant heart of Albany, and known as "the village in the city" offering a one-of-a-kind experience for residents and visitors alike. From shopping to dining to nightlife to the arts, Lark Street has it all for a Live-Work-Play lifestyle. The cobblestone streets and beautiful brownstones evoke the feel of neighborhoods in New York City and the many events such as Art on Lark and LarkFEST draw thousands of visitors to this unique community and keep them coming back.


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