Arts Beat

By Mark G. Auerbach

Hal Holbrook, the veteran actor best known for his portrayal of American writer, Samuel Langhorne Clemens, better known as Mark Twain, launched his career in Holyoke, as an actor with The Valley Players, who performed at the Mountain Park Casino from 1941-42 and from 1944-1962. Holbrook, who died last week, is most famous for his one-man show Mark Twain Tonight. He played numerous roles at Mountain Park from 1951-1953, and performed Mark Twain Tonight there as the season opener in 1957. (Another member of the Valley Players was Anne Potoniak from Westfield, who went on to receive a Tony Award nomination for her performance in ‘Night Mother). Holbrook brought Mark Twain Tonight back to Holyoke in 2011 for a benefit performance produced by MIFA, The Massachusetts International Festival of The Arts. Holbrook had many affiliations with The Mark Twain House and Museum in Hartford, which rented The Bushnell in 2015 for a 90th birthday celebration for Holbrook. The City of Hartford proclaimed Hal Holbrook Day at that event.

The Bing Arts Center is closing its doors, according to its director Brian Hale. The Bing had planned to celebrate its 10th season last year, before the pandemic shut them down. Their capacity to pay bills was diminished by their inability to present income-producing events. Hale and team were redeveloping the space which had formerly been a neighborhood movie theatre in Springfield’s Forest Park section. Aldo Giella of Lessard Realty is handling the sale of the property on Sumner Avenue.


The Bacon Brothers will present an exclusive concert for Hartford Stage, as part of the theatre’s annual gala, this year in a virtual setting, on April 10. One can attend the concert only or go full tilt with a gala package that includes a virtual cocktail party with gift bags and more. The Bacon Brothers –Kevin and Michael, have released over 10 albums over their 23-year history. Brother Kevin is the well-known stage and screen star, who starred in Hartford Stage’s 2015 sold out run of Rear Window, adapted for the stage by Keith Reddin and based upon the story by Cornell Woolrich. Michael is an Emmy-winning composer. Tickets are now available. For details: www.hartfordstage.org.


The Boston Pops with Keith Lockhart will present their first live streamed concert on Feb. 12, in celebration of Valentine’s Day. Dance companies The Melody in Motion Ensemble from Boston Arts Academy and dancers from the Boston-based companies Hynridmotion and Lakai Dance Theatre are on the program. The Pops will perform music by Bizet, Ellington, Gershwin, Rodgers and Hammerstein,and of course, John Williams. For details: www.bostonpops.org.

The Metropolitan Opera celebrates Black History Month with a week of free screenings of opera productions featuring African American artists.Kathleen Battle headlines the cast of Rossini’s The Barber of Seville on Feb. 10. Harolyn Blackwell sings with Aprile Millo in Verdi’s Un Ballo in Maschera on Feb. 11. Jessye Norman is featured in Berlioz Les Troyens on Feb. 13 and Wganer’s Die Walkure on Feb. 14. For details: https://www.metopera.org/user-information/nightly-met-opera-streams/

Hartford Symphony Orchestra’s Masterworks-In Depth with Maestra Carolyn Kuan, returns Feb. 12-17 with an online presentation honoring works of music originally planned to be performed live at The Bushnell this season. Violinist Sirena Huang will join the free event to discuss The Firebird and The Butterfly Lovers, two works originally on that program. For details: www.hartfordsymphony.org.


Stefan Szkafarowsky, the opera singer who has performed at The Metropolitan Opera and at opera houses here and abroad, offers a free live stream concert on February 12. His concert is made possible by Connecticut Lyric Opera and Connecticut Virtuosi Chamber Orchestra. A few years ago, he joined Connecticut Lyric Opera last minute in their production of Eugene Onegin, without a single rehearsal. For details: https://www.facebook.com/ctlyricopera/videos

Talk to Me Like The Rain and Let Me Listen, Tennessee Williams’ one-act, staged by Dexeter Singleton, will be streamed by Connecticut Repertory Theatre on Feb. 18-21. Casey Wortham and Colin Kinnick star in the 20-minute play. Talk backs follow each performance. For details: https://crt.uconn.edu/Online/default.asp

The Springfield Symphony Orchestra’s Homegrown Series, online recollections and performances by members of the SSO and its youth orchestras, is currently featuring The Lam Trio, a talented group of Longmeadow siblings, who perform with the SSO Youth Orchestra. They perform a movement from Joseph Haydn’s Trio No. 53 in G Major (known as the Baryton Trio). The Lam Trio attend Longmeadow High School. To catch their performance, along with past episodes of the Homegrown Series: www.springfieldsymphony.org.


The Bushnell and The Mark Twain House & Museum have partnered to bring a short story to theater audiences in their Page to Stage Short Story Writing Competition. The contest will be judged by New York Times bestseller and author of the Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children series, Ransom Riggs. This is the first time the two organizations have collaborated on a writing competition. For details: www.bushnell.org

Megillah Cycle, a Yiddish language classic by Itzik Manger, staged by Mike Burstyn, will be streamed from The Congress for Jewish Culture, beginning Feb. 21, in time for Purim. It’s part of their International Virtual Yiddish Theater series, which began with a production of The Dybbuk. Megillah Cycle, a Purim story, features an international cast. For details: http://congressforjewishculture.org/


Mark G. Auerbach studied theatre at American University and the Yale School of Drama. He’s worked for arts organizations and reported on theatre for newspapers and radio. Mark produces and hosts ArtsBeat TV/Radio for WCPC15 and 89.5fm/WSKB, and is a contributor to Pioneer Valley Radio.


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