Bisantz emcees cabaret fundraiser for Regent Theatre

Posted on October 20, 2020 by Leave a comment

Lowell’s own Jerry Bisantz, dons his emcee cap on Friday, November 6 to headline “Lyrically Speaking,” a cabaret fundraiser for The Regent Theatre in Arlington. The theatre is near and dear to Bisantz, who has done many shows there, including “God Help Us!” in 2019 with the legendary Ed Asner.

  Bisantz, the multi-talented actor-playwright-director and artistic director-co-founder of Image Theater, headlines an equally gifted group of performers to aid the local playhouse that is struggling due to the pandemic, like many theatres nationwide. 

   The cast includes Gail Phaneuf, who was born and raised in Chelmsford. An actress, playwright and musical composer, Phaneuf has written two hit shows — “Monsters: The Musical” and “The Love Note,” that was performed off-Broadway. 

  Also performing is Gordon Michaels, a Boston Conservatory of Music grad who was in the film “Fame” and sang back-up to the Platters on tour. He has also sung with the like of Patti LaBelle, James Taylor and Natalie Cole.

  Other performers include Patti Hathaway, Bill Spera, Katie Connor, Dorothy Miller, Phil Tayler and Jim Keating. 

  “Michael Larson is our accompanist and Dorothy Miller, his wife, is a talented chanteuse. Bill and Katie are an awesome team that we featured one time at Image,” said Bisantz. 

  Even though he is emceeing, Bisantz will perform three songs, including a duet with Tayler from the musical “City of Angels.” 

  It will livestream at 7:30 p.m. at

  “People can view it on their computers, and if they enjoy what they see — and I know they will, they can hit the ‘donate’ button to keep this wonderful theatre alive,” said Bisantz.

In the wings:

PETERBOROUGH PLAYGROUP: New Hampshire’s Peterborough Players launches Playgroup this Friday. The three two-week sessions are free, presented on-line and designed to give patrons and artists a chance to learn, interact and discover elements that make up the theatre they love. Associate artistic director Tom Frey moderates. In each session, the first meeting offers an overview and discussion of a theatrical topic, specifically the mechanics of comedy, Shakespeare and playwriting. The second, occurring a week later, takes a “deeper dive” into the topic and may include actors performing scenes, interacting with the expert and audience questions. Registration is closed for the comedy sessions, but open for Shakespeare with actor-playwright-Players artistic director Gus Kaikkonen on November 13 and 20 and playwriting with playwright-actor Tracey Conyer Lee on December 4 and 11. For info and to register, visit

MRT REMINDER: Don’t forget to check out Merrimack Repertory Theatre’s first show since shutting down in March. On this weekend, it’s a digital offering of “Fannie Lou Hammer: Speak on It!”, a new play with music by Cheryl West about the civil rights icon and voting rights leader. It launches on Friday, October 23 at 7 p.m. and continues through October 25. Free but RSVP at

 MUSIC UPDATE: Lots of news on the music scene this week as orchestras and music schools come up with new ways to stay connected to the joys of music despite the pandemic. Indian Hill Music in Littleton has many fall classes going on for all ages and ability levels. They range from instrument playing to music appreciation. You can learn about IH’s Online Custom Ensemble program in a virtual info session on Saturday, October 24 at 5:30 p.m. on Zoom. The program allows students of all ages, levels and musical styles to collaborate with fellow musicians in small ensembles — online. Participants work with skilled faculty coaches to prepare and record ensemble repertory from house using the latest technology. Call 978-486-9524, email or link to to sign up. 

HOLIDAY UPDATE: Seacoast Repertory Theatre in Portsmouth, N.H. has three holiday shows lined up over the Thanksgiving-Hanukkah-Christmas season. All shows have a livestream option. They include “Songs for a New World,” November 18-December 9; “Winter Wonderettes,” November 27-December 19; and “Honey’s Holiday Happy Hour,” December 13-23. Order a package of two or three shows and get 20 percent off and no ticketing fees.  For info and tickets, visit…Tickets are currently on sale for “Jim Brickman: Comfort & Joy at Home LIVE! Virtually” on Friday, December 18 at 7 p.m. The Grammy nominated songwriter-piano sensation is doing his traditional holiday tour virtually this holiday season, and a portion of each ticket purchased to the live event will benefit Worcester’s Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts. Tickets are $40, $75 and $125 with higher-priced tickets including a gift box and other amenities. Visit for details.   

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is

Dynamic art showcased at NHAA gallery in Portsmouth

Posted on October 13, 2020 by Leave a comment

It’s time for a mid-October trek north to Portsmouth, N.H. and a visit to the New Hampshire Art Association’s Robert Lincoln Levy Gallery at 136 State Street, where several inventive shows are on view through November 1. 

‘Monhegan Light House’ by Lennie Mullaney

  “Catching the Light” showcases members’ plein air works, created outdoors on-site during these uncertain times. The locally created artwork would be an excellent addition to an art collection of recognizable landmarks.

  If you’d like to try your hand at plein air painting, the association hosts a Plein Air Meetup Group that’s open to members and non-members. Visit for info. 

  Also on view this month is “Mostly Animals, Some People,” an eclectic show by NHAA artist Jef Steingrebe. 

  His style of art, as he recently told his dental hygienist when she asked him what he painted, is “like allegorical pop art, sort of a combination of highway signs and stereo instructions but with bright colors.”

  Steingrebe has loved American country antiques and folk art since childhood. 

Jef Steingrebe’s whimsical works on view in Portsmouth, N.H.

“Searching for it, lusting after it, buying it, selling it, studying it,” he said. “To think that it isn’t a part of everything I do is silly. Other artists, though, have given me permission to do what I do and how I do it.” 

   “Reflections of New Hampshire” feature Marianne Stillwagon’s paintings of New Hampshire seasonal landscapes and wildlife. “My paintings depict the mountains, ocean and everything in between our beautiful state,” she said.

  The final NHAA exhibit on view this month is “Book of Sorrows,” an intimate collection based on a lifetime of memories by Judith Heller Cassell. Each wall of the back gallery shows a different chapter of the book, beginning with her earliest days in rural Virginia in the shadows of the Blue Ridge Mountains.

  The gallery is following the CDC and state’s recommendations for safety while visiting during the pandemic. It is open Wednesday-Thursday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; Friday-Saturday, 11 a.m.-6 p.m.; Sunday, noon-5 p.m. Closed Monday and open Tuesday by appointment. Visit or call 603-431-4230 for info.

Gallery notes

ARTWEEK NASHUA: Going virtual this year, ArtWeek Nashua 2020 features a televised week of celebrating the arts, October 17-25. The celebration combines the 16th ArtWalk and 7th Meri Goyette Arts Awards in a safe way while still highlighting artistic endeavors in Nashua. Sid Ceaser, a longtime Nashua photographer, will host the ArtWeek programs on Channel 96 Access Nashua and livestreaming on the TV station’s website. For more information and updated schedules and interviews, visit City Arts Nashua website: or City Arts NashuaFacebook page at or

A QUILT EXTENSION: Lowell’s New England Quilt Museum has extended “Deeds Not Words: Celebrating 100 Years of Women’s Suffrage,” its dramatic showcase of quilts commemorating the centennial of the 19th amendment, to October 31. Also on view are “The Quilts of Cecilia K. Macia” and winners of the Wayside Quilters Guild 2019 summer celebration of New England quilts. The museum, located at 18 Shattuck Street, is open Tuesday-Saturday, 10 a.m.-4 p.m. and following prescribed safety protocols, including masks and limited attendance numbers. Visit or call 978-452-4207 for info.

The Salem Trayned Band

COLONIAL DEFENDERS: Ever wonder how our colonial ancestors defended themselves? The Salem Trayned Band will share info on that and other interesting historic facts on Saturday, October 17, 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. in a free, live-streamed Arms & Armor program from the Worcester Art Museum. The Band accurately recreates a 17th-centure English colonial militia unit from Salem, Massachusetts. They wear period clothing and are equipped with historically correct arms and armor. Here’s a link to the program

ART FOR KIDS: Curation 250, an urban art gallery and shop, located in Mill No. 5  on Jackson Street in Lowell, encourages art making for kids with its Let’s Make Art monthly art box, designed to be fun and accessible for young artists ages 5-11. Each curated box provides all the supplies that one child (or two if you like to share) needs to start creating. And each project is supported by a free video tutorial. The November art box features projects inspired by famous artists and will start shipping on October 18.  Visit Curation 250’s page on Facebook. For info on the Let’s Make Art boxes, visit

Holiday happenings – even in October

Posted on October 6, 2020 by Leave a comment

 “How come they’re pushing Christmas when we haven’t even had Halloween?” 

 It’s the common complaint we hear each fall.

  But this year, with pandemic and election pandemonium raging, few seem to mind giving the holidays a jump start. 

   Merrimack Repertory in Lowell is the leader of the pack, presenting a live reading on Zoom of “The Rise and Fall of Holly Fudge” as part of its MRT’s First Look series on Thursday, October 22 at 7 p.m. That even beats by a day the Hallmark Channel’s Christmas Countdown that starts on October 23.

  Written by Trista Baldwin, the winsome new comedy is about Carol Sprague, a white single mom who makes award-winning black and white fudge. She serves it every holiday and gifts it to her co-workers. But with her Black daughter’s girlfriend crashing Christmas, her neighbor’s new-found love of confectionary and the protests erupting on her front lawn, Carol finds it tough to make this the most wonderful time of the year. 

  Baldwin, an MRT commissioned playwright this season, calls herself “a textual surrealist — the simple and recognizable suddenly bends and transforms into something heightened and spiritual.” 

  Praising Baldwin, artistic director Courtney Sale said, “Trista’s work always delivers. She crafts characters with guts, nuance and glorious fallibility. Her stories make you laugh, think and want to do better for humankind.” 

 Sale hosts the free event and is “delighted that we get to spend time in this new play, set at the holidays, and share an early iteration with MRT audiences.” 

  It’s free, but you must RSVP at

  If you can’t attend the Zoom reading, you’ll be able to access it on the MRT website,,  October 23-25.

  Theatre at the Mount, at Mount Wachusett Community College in Gardner, will soon have tickets on sale for “Winter Wonderettes,” a livestream event over Thanksgiving weekend, November 27-29. 

  The seasonal celebration finds the girls entertaining at the annual Harper’s Hardware Holiday Party. When Santa goes missing, they use their talents and creative ingenuity to save the fun. The show features great ‘60s versions of holiday classics from “Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town” and “Jingle Bell Rock” to “Run, Rudolph, Run” and “Winter Wonderland.” The marvelous show is an energetic, glittering holiday package and fun for all ages. Call 978-630-9388 or email for info.

In the wings

HALLOWEEN AT HANOVER’S NEW REP: Hanover Theatre has launched The Hanover Theatre Repertory in the new BrickBox Theater at the Jean McDonough Arts Center in downtown Worcester. Its mission is to engage, entertain and energize audiences with dynamic events, made in and for, the new theater. It will focus on classics, modern classics and classic-inspired works. Its first venture is “Edgar Allan Poe Double Header,” being presented Thursdays-Sundays through October 25. The Poe show makes the new theatre the first in Massachusetts to be approved by Actors Equity Association to host an indoor event. Audiences of 20 or less will be entertained in the hour-long performance of his “The Tell-Tale Heart” and “The Cask of Amontillado,” directed and performed by the Rep’s artistic director Olivia D’Ambrosio Scanlon. Book a private performance on the Thursday, Friday, Saturday or Sunday of your choice in the BrickBox Theater or at your residence. Seated cabaret-style and staged as a séance, you’ll conjure the narrators of Poe’s stories to “visit” through the medium of a single live performer. The Rep will pre-set your table with bubbly and dark chocolates to add to the evening. It’s $2500 to book a performance — and you can invite up to 19 guests to join you at the BrickBox. Home performances are arranged case-by-case to ensure absolute safety of audience and performer. Call Lisa Condit at 508-471-1767 or email her at to discuss performance availability. For info on the new rep, visit

MORE HAUNTINGS: Littleton’s Cannon Theatre isn’t doing it live, but it’s getting into the Halloween spirit virtually with “The Haunting Hour,” October 23-31. Featured readings include Poe’s “The Black Cat” and Oscar Wilde’s “The Canterville Ghost.” The cost is $10, individual; $15, family for the live stream performances. Visit for tickets.

MORE LIVESTREAMS: More arts organizations are getting on the live-stream bandwagon as the pandemic continues. Boston Ballet presents it first ever virtual season with BB@yourhome. Subscribe to all six virtual performances for $180. Visit for details… History At Play continues its live-stream performances of dynamic historical female personalities with Kathryn Woods solo “A Woman Ain’t I, A Depiction of Sojourner Truth” on Friday, October 9 at 7:30 p.m. $10-$25 pay-what-you-can via Pay-Per-HAP on Facebook.Nancye Tuttle’s email address is

Old and new — art, that is — on view in Fitchburg & Lowell

Posted on October 6, 2020 by Leave a comment

The new and the very old take center stage in two shows on view now in Lowell and opening Saturday in Fitchburg.   

 It’s “Red, White and Blue” at Lowell’s Loading Dock Gallery. With the national election less than a month away, artists consider the country’s patriotic colors and what they symbolize in the 

regional juried show. On view through November 1, it is held in conjunction with the Sixth Annual Poetry Convergence. 

  Artists reveal what the colors say to them in a variety of media. Included are artistic memories, celebrations, symbols and ideals, plus perceptions of duty, democracy, elements of our Constitution or history and the opportunities provided by this “Great Experiment” — both pro and con — known as the American Dream. 

  To complement the artworks, the LDG invited area poets to preview the exhibit and create poems for the work that evoked a response in them. The poems are being recited in the gallery and recorded for the gallery website, continuing a much-loved tradition of reading newly written poetry inspired by the LDG art. 

 The LDG, located in the Western Avenue Studios and Lofts complex at 122 Western Avenue, Lowell, is open Friday-Sunday, noon-4 p.m. Visit for Covid safety guidelines.

 At the Fitchburg Art Museum, “Cloth is Money: Textiles from the Sahel,” on view October 10-June 6, 2021, is all about old textiles and their historic importance in the Sahel, the southern border region of the Sahara.

  Textiles here, as throughout Africa, reach deep into the area’s multifaceted past. They evoke images of camel caravans, the trans-Saharan trade and the rise of great medieval West African empires.

 Cloth represents culture and wealth in Africa more than any other medium. It enhances the owner’s image and can be converted into other goods. Historically, cloth was money, like cowrie shells, iron implements or brass bracelets. Today, it’s valued for its expressive qualities, displayed during life-cycle ceremonies and as a marker of status and achievement.

 The exhibition illustrates the complex, timeless value of woven cloth in this region by exploring weaving techniques, designs and symbols alongside the rich history and cultural context of the Sahel. 

 Textiles on view date back to the 11th century, the medieval era marked by a robust trade network between North Africa and regions south of the Sahara. This created vast wealth and gave rise to the prominent medieval West African empires of Ghana, Mali and Songhai. Evidence exists that these powerful kingdoms were known in Europe and considered major players in world trade. 

  Textiles offer a dynamic view of the region’s complex past and present. And they remain the most widely appreciated art form in Africa and the Diaspora today, a part of people’s lives whether as fashionable clothing, family heirlooms or aspects of their environment. 

  The exhibition aligns with the growing interest in the region and is presented concurrently with two major exhibitions — “Caravans of Gold, Fragments in Time: Art, Culture and Exchange across Medieval Saharan Africa” at the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of African Art in Washington, D.C. and “Sahel: Art and Empires on the Shores of the Sahara” at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York. 

 The FAM is at 185 Elm Street, Fitchburg. Open Wednesday-Friday, noon-4 p.m.; Saturday-Sunday, 11 a.m.-5 p.m.; 1stThursday of month, noon-7 p.m. Visit

Gallery notes

NATIVE AMERICAN CELEBRATION: Concord Museum celebrates the area’s rich Native history on Monday, October 12 — Indigenous Peoples’ Day — music, drumming and free admission with advance registration. Larry Spotted Crow Man, an award-winning performer/poet and member of the Nipmuc Tribe of Massachusetts, will sing and perform on the hand drum 11 a.m.-noon. The program will be performed for a limited live audience and live streamed to a virtual audience. Visitors can visit the museum’s “People of Musketaquid” gallery that chronicles Concord’s human history over the past 10,000 years. Advance timed tickets available at

HONORING ‘HEROES’: Lowell-based painted Laurie Simko’s artwork is inspired by the natural world of the flora and fauna in the brooks, bogs and woods around her. But the emergence of Covid changed her focus last spring, when her daughter, a nurse, sent her a selfie with her newly acquired face shield. Struck with the image, almost like a soldier going into battle, Simko painted her portrait. Since then, she has created a series of 19 more hero co-workers to honor and show them gratitude and chronicle this challenging time. The “Thank You, Heroes” exhibit is on view in a virtual gallery presented by Simko and Christ Church United of Lowell. Check it out and be inspired at

LOWELL NOTES: October 19 at 4 p.m. is the entry deadline for the Annual Juried Members Exhibition 2020 at the Brush Art Gallery and Studios. Exhibition dates are November 10-December 23. Up-to-date member artists of the Brush or New England Sculptors Association are eligible. All media welcomed. $25 non-refundable entry fee. Juror is Andrew Duncan, collaborative artist and community & cultural liaison at Enterprise Bank. Link to to apply online. Contact with questions…”Deplorables,” featuring art work by Peter Kalabokis, is on view through November 8 at Gallery Z, 167 Market Street. It is open Wednesday-Sunday, 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Visit

Nancye Tuttle’s email address is

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