Hi Honey, We’re Home….Alleyway Theatre Starts Live Season

15 months is a long time to wait for a Quickie…even six quickies.

In this case, Alleyway Theatre ‘s 30th annual New Play Festival celebration Buffalo Quickies 2021 was worth the wait.  In an practically perfect post-pandemic stroke of theatre genius,  Alleyway’s new Executive Artistic Director Chris J Handley and his team created an inside-outside experience that is a production in itself. The audience was divided into small groups and each group rotated between Main Street store front windows for each Quickie. The actors were behind glass and the audience was outside, listening to crystal clear (except was the Light Rail roared by) audio through properly sanitized headsets. Ushers led you between performance settings and the printed program and color coded lights in your headset made the process flow easily. Intermission was staggered and there was no awkward ‘cross over’ time where groups crossed paths. The slow stroll between locations was easy and enjoyable.

It was a wonderful entrée back to in person Buffalo theatre.

On our night, the companion of choice and I were in Group A, and our first stop was the Shea’s Courtyard for  the world premiere of the 2020 Mazumdar New Play Finalist “The Yellow Wallpaper,” a musical version of Charlotte Perkins Gilman’s 1892 short story. (This was required reading for those of us who took Feminist Lit or Women’s Studies classes in college.) Kelly Copps plays the mother of a new born babe and her (likely) post-partum depression prompts her doctor to prescribe isolation and rest. Her shabby room overlooks a garden, but the shadows that haunt her from the torn yellow wallpaper command her attention. Copps’ real life husband is her stage hubby, too, and her sis Amy Jakiel is her sister-in-law. The Mrs. Copps’ torment is palpable, even under glass, as she tries to free her paper demon. It’s eerie and strangely beautiful.  A clever staging moment has Mr. Copps and Jakiel in a second floor window, looking down as Mrs. Copps struggle with the power of her mind. The only musical of the night, he trio’s sumptuous voices rose above the mediocre score. An early and not too well explained treat was the solo voice of Kristen Tripp Kelley reading  from the original story that was in our headsets before the show began. It set the stage for creepy.

Next up was “In Transit,” in front of Shea’s 710. Written by Rachel Lynett, it features Victoria Perez and Smirna Mercedes as ex partners who cross paths in an airport. The repartee, the memories, the questions, the heartbreak….it’s all here in under 10 minutes and it’s glorious to watch. Perez and Mercedes were a treat to watch: you could picture them as a couple, with their foibles driving each other crazy and their passion making their hearts soar. But is it meant to be? Director Josie DiVincenzo kept the action simple and poignant.  The ending left me wondering…just what good theatre is supposed to do.

After our just-right intermission, we move to 678 Main St. to meet “Grown-Ass Louis,” by Bruce Walsh. David C. Mitchell and Trevor Dugan are in side-by-side windows as Louis comes to terms with his father’s death. Mitchell shows his chops playing multiple gruff adult characters.

Next up was “Lily and Tessa’s Super Star Show, Episode 37,” by Devon Hayakawa, another world premiere.  What ‘tween girl hasn’t sung or acted into her hairbrush (or in this case, a curling iron) while performing to an adoring crowd of stuffed animals and celebrity posters? Jane Hereth is solid as the solo star who’s missing her co-host. There’s a subtle and disturbing twist here, coming from a one-sided phone conversation with the missing co-host’s mother.  This powerful plot twist leaves you wanting more of this story. Director Robyn Lee Horn created the ultimate in ‘tween chaos in the bedroom/set and even ‘broadcast’ it on the exterior wall to play on the TV show theme.

The Shea’s Smith window became the private lair in “Helen Mirren Takes a Day Off,” another solo show starring Shanntina Moore as Mirren. And oh what a life….there are relentless phone calls from Fifi the dog’s vet, Dame Judi Dench, Mirren’s pro…what’s a Diva to do?  It was funny and Moore as Mirren was charming, but this was a long 10 minutes.

Our final show was “Pay Your Ferryman” by Lauren Davenport, another world premiere, directed by Handley himself with Victor Morales in the solo role. This was the only inside (mask it up) show and the scant audience seating was well spaced and just right.  Morales is commanding as always, this time portraying Charon, the figure from Greek mythology, the cruise director on the boat of Hades.  The faux gilt bars on each seat must be paid – or not, in the case of my rebel companion – to Charon cross you across Styx. Morales is scary and hysterical as he grumbles in his workaday life.

What’s notable is that the cast and crew repeat their magic as many as five or six times each performance, as new groups saunter up to their windows. Kudos to the six assistant stage managers and the tech team who keep the proverbial train on track. There’s a new position in the Production Staff – COVID Compliance Office – who made sure all rules were followed and all headsets and chairs and touch points were properly sanitized. So welcome back to a new season of theatre:  Alleyway’s clever and inventive staging makes  this a great way to begin.

Buffalo Quickies runs an easy two hours with a 15-minute intermission, now until July 10. Visit www.alleyway.com for tickets and details.

Alleyway Theatre’s Current: 716 Reflects On Stage Online

March feels like such a long time ago, especially for our theatre community. That’s when we last set foot in a local theatre.  When it was clear that live theatre wasn’t coming back any time soon, theatre companies began planning  new iterations on alternative platforms. While nothing can take the place of a real live in-theatre experience, I’m glad and grateful for all that creative ingenuity.

This is a particularly poignant time for Alleyway Theatre. Last season it celebrated a landmark anniversary and its founder and leader – Neal Radice – stepped down, as did its grande dame Joyce Stilson. That in itself is a major transition for any theatre company. Add in the complication of COVID-19 and a theatre season interrupted and it’s another unprecedented event. Alleyway is coming back this month to launch its 2020-2021 season with a hometown theme. Currents: 716  is a series of 15 short monologues written by a variety Buffalo playwrights. The entire pastiche is videotaped and pieced together with no defined intermission. Consider this a new take on Alleyway’s iconic Buffalo Quickies. Only “The Box,” the opening vignette, uses Alleyway’s stage. Who needs the four walls of a theatre when you have a whole city full of neighborhoods and landmarks to use as COVID-friendly backdrops?

The whole production is a pretty wild romp with interstitial music by local musicians. Love the cross-genre support for all local performers.

Most of the plays have a corona virus theme while others focus on social justice. “What She Remembers on a Walk” by Gary Earl Ross is an outlier: Mary Craig portrays a woman reflecting and imagining her life as a caregiver pushes her wheelchair through east side neighborhoods. It’s sweet and heartbreaking.” Waste to Wealth on the Waterways of Western New York … Or,“Padon tells Parsifal How to Save the Planet” is a send up to environmental activism  Elizabethan-style.  Imagine if the Sierra Club wrote its call to action missives in rhyming couplets, the likes of “Without sustainability, there can be no more humanity,” or “You throw away this used once, is acting like a stupid dunce.”

There were some truly lovely moments. In “Close Up”the black girlfriend of woman clashes with her good ol’ guy Polish dad, and then bond over their shared connection with Buffalo’s Central Terminal. “Signs of the Divine” is performed in American Sign Language (and dubbed) and asks how you can hear the word of God? Ed  Taylor sums up Buffalo spirit perfectly in “Black Nikes” when his character – a ride share driver talking about his fares – says “In Buffalo hope f$*%ing springs eternal.”  In “Almost April,” Pamela Rose Mangus is banished to her basement to quarantine by her COVID-phobic husband and makes a video for their daughter while she endeavors to sort the clutter.  “Monologue #6”, set in on Carlton St. bench with Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center in the background  was focused and purposeful – a life lesson for the insidious forms of racism and judgment. This one is subtle and brilliant. Donna Hoke’s  “Same New Story” has Peter Palmisano on a perfectly-paced rant against COVID, like a more stylish and controlled Howard (“mad as hell and not going to take it anymore”) Beale from the 1976 film Network.

Admittedly there are things that are less appealing. There’s some (perhaps deliberately) shaky camera work that my eyes found tedious and the (almost) constant barrage of corona virus situations didn’t transport me to that delicious place away from the real world (like theatre is often wont to do).

There’s more virtual theatre to come this fall; get over your Zoom fatigue and take a chance on this alternative theatre permutation. You’re still supporting our creative class and you’ll see some familiar faces, too.

Currents:716 is online Thursday, Friday, Saturday to September 26. It runs just under two hours if you don’t pause for bio breaks or libations. While an occasional curse word doesn’t distract when we’re in the theatre for reals, there is some non-family-friendly language if there are little ones in your viewing parlor. Details at www.alleyway.com.

State Grant Supports Kavinoky Improvements

The Kavinoky Theatre received a special 40th anniversary present:  a $145,000 grant awarded from New York state’s Regional Economic Development Council (REDC).

The grant will fund some capital improvements for the theatre, including a Broadway-style covered entryway, new theatre seats, and an updated projection system.

“We are thrilled to receive this award,” said Loraine O’Donnell, executive artistic director of the

theatre. “This grant will breathe new life into the theatre and provide our audience with an

even more enjoyable experience. The awning will make our guests feel like they are taking in a show in New York City and the projection equipment will enhance future productions.”

Senator Tim Kennedy, a D’Youville College alumnus (Kavinoky is the 250-seat jewel of D’Youville’s urban campus) said, “This state investment will support Kavinoky Theatre’s mission to foster creativity and offer Western New Yorkers immersive experiences into all genre of theatre. By supporting the Theatre’s efforts to preserve the Kavinoky’s charm, we’re ensuring that this City of Buffalo icon will continue to inspire future artists, actors, and writers for generations to come.”

Senator Kennedy’s family is no stranger to the Kav: his cousin, Kevin Kennedy is a local actor who most recently in the Kav’s production of Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.”

Of the 54 grants awarded to Erie County organizations in this funding cycle, this was one of two in the arts and cultural facilities improvement program. All told,  $67.3 million was awarded to 109 different projects in Western New York.

REDC grants support organizations and programs that help boost our regional economy and began in 2011 as a centerpiece of Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s s strategy to jumpstart the economy and create jobs.

The state’s investment in the Kav is another demonstration of the power of the arts to be an economic driver. In The Arts and Economic Prosperity Report “The Arts Mean Business” prepared by ASI of WNY, it showed arts and culture sector is a$352.1 million industry and generates$40.3 million in local and state government revenue.

 “This grant from the Regional Economic Development Council will allow The Kavinoky Theatre to continue to play an essential role in Buffalo’s vibrant arts community, as it has for the past 40 years,” said Pamela Say, vice president of institutional advancement at D’Youville.

The Kav’s next production – “The Bridges of Madison County” – opens Friday, January 10. Based on Robert James Waller’s 1992 novel, it was adapted for the screen and later for the stage in 2014 with a sumptuous score by Jason Robert Brown. The Kav’s production features Michele Marie Roberts, Steve Copps. Tickets and details at http://www.kavionkytheatre.com.

At long last: To Kill a Mockingbird at Kavinoky Theatre

“To Kill A Mockingbird” plays at The Kavinoky Theatre until December 8.

It’s a sin to kill a mockingbird.

Some may think it’s also a sin to script-tamper with a Pulitzer Prize winning novel’s oft-staged theatrical adaptation, but that’s exactly what Aaron Sorkin did in his 2018 adaption of To Kill a Mockingbird. It’s currently playing on Broadway and in a unique twist of fate, it’s also on stage at Kavinoky Theatre to December 8.

. . . this cast shines like the Alabama moon at its brightest.

If you missed the story last season, the Kav was all set to stage the 1963 Harper Lee-approved adaptation. Kavinoky’s Executive Artistic Director Loraine O’Donnell had what she thought was the iron-clad permission to open the show, despite the opening of its new Broadway adaptation. Due to some legal squabbling between Lee’s estate and the Broadway producer, O’Donnell received a ‘cease and desist’ order within days of opening night, which even made it to the front page of The New York Times. Because, as the adage decrees, ”the show must go on” O’Donnell, Production Stage Manager Norm Sham, and Director Kyle LoConti and the cast quickly, agilely and expertly mounted a stunning version of George Orwell’s 1984 in just 19 days. Within a couple weeks, the Broadway producer had a change of heart and offered O’Donnell the opportunity to add the Sorkin adaptation to the theatre’s 40th anniversary season.

To Kill a Mockingbird’s strong story, beloved space in American literature, and compelling messages prevail. Sorkin’s staging is different from the ‘original’ stage version that closed Studio Arena Theatre’s 2008 (and final) season.  There’s an adjusted point of view here that actually brings even more relevance to 2019 audiences in a sad and compelling way. It’s very worthy, and the Kavinoky cast  members– mostly the same as last season, minus the children – are powerful in their roles.

Sorkin gives a stronger voice to some key characters which add new depth to the story. The family housekeeper Calpurnia is –in the 1930s southern tradition – a black woman who has served this family for decades. Because Lee wrote this in the late 1950s, (before the Civil Rights Movement) her head would have bowed and her comments were to herself. This Calpurnia shares her point of view clearly and it’s not lost on her employer Atticus Finch. Sorkin brings a different sensibility to Tom Robinson, the wrongly accused black man, too.  Sorkin has nuanced Atticus; he’s still his children’s hero but his very human flaws reflect other conflicts.

Under LoConti’s direction, this cast shines like the Alabama moon at its brightest. While this reviewer is not a fan of adult actors portraying children, Aleks Malejs as Scout, Michael Seitz as Jem, and Jacob Albarella as Dill are feisty and fidgety perfection. Malejs in particular dug deep into her inner child to surface the body language and affectations of a six-year-old tomboy. Albarella is charmingly irritating as Dill, the neighbor’s nephew. Watch his expressive face as he admits some painful truths of his childhood. Chris Avery as Atticus Finch is stalwart, kind, and seeks the justice that needs to be served from a world that hasn’t quite gotten over the Civil War, 70 years prior. Sorkin/Avery’s Finch isn’t an ideologue, per se, although you sense from him a yearning for something more. He has his match in Shanntina Moore as Calpurnia. Moore’s Calpurnia has a dignity that makes me want to know more about this character’s story than anyone else. When Scout’s later monologue talks about law school, who was her exemplar?: her father and his law career or Calpurnia and her need for social justice? Robyn Baun’s performance as Mayella Ewell was captivating; she turned from defensive, to fearful, to ‘don’t tread on me’ daughter of the true south effortlessly. She was the teenage victim of abuse whose hand was forced to lie about what happened in her home. She nails it.

There are wonderful pops of Sorkin dialogue sprinkled throughout, particularly some of Judge Taylor’s waggish remarks expertly delivered by Peter Palmisano. Kevin Kennedy as the southern sheriff Heck Tate and Xavier Harris as the accused Tom Robinson, David Lundy has landowner Link Dees, and John Profeta as Boo Radley delivered solid performances. It was Patrick Moltrane as Mayella’s drunk and angry pappy that makes you remember what a scared and scarred society this small southern town really was.

My one disappointment was the constant movement of set pieces. Last season’s set looked solid and stunning in the style of the Kav’s resident set designer David King. King also is credited with this set design of elements moved about by the actors themselves on a fully lit stage; this was loud and at times frenetic.

O’Donnell said on opening night that ticket sales are very brisk with several shows approaching sell out status. Get online now and book your seats: you won’t be disappointed.

To Kill a Mockingbird runs a little over two hours with a 15 minute intermission until December  8. Visit www.kavinokytheatre.com for details and tickets.

Kavinoky Theatre at 40

Way back in 1932, an American psychologist coined a phrase that became a rallying cry: “Life begins at 40.”

For the Kavinoky Theatre, its 40th season means embracing its updated mission statement, launching a new collaboration, and giving its patrons another outstanding theatre season.  

“Things keep getting better,” says executive artistic director Loraine O’Donnell. “This season three out of five directors are women and one director is a person of color. We’re continuing to update our facilities, and we’re almost at our fundraising goal to purchase new seats and that’s a hefty goal.”

O’Donnell says the refreshed mission statement focuses on being more inclusive and bringing patrons a broader array of productions each season, including two musicals. “We’re bringing a better experience to our patrons,” says O’Donnell. “When you buy a season ticket, you’re not going to be bored. We want the Kavinoky to be a place for everyone.”

This season will open September 6 with ‘Hairspray,’ set in the 1960s with a powerful message of inclusion. O’Donnell says, “I stood up during the first read through of the show, and it was the week after the shootings in El Paso. I said the message of integration and tolerance is even more important after the week we had. ‘Hairspray’ has positive message about self-worth and body image. Both are still relevant now.”

The cast is a mix of Buffalo theatre veterans and talented students making their professional debut, directed by Carlos R. A. Jones who also choreographed the production.  There are some surprises in this production: the role of Motormouth Maybell will be played by Lorenzo Shawn Parnell. O’Donnell says his high tenor voice lends itself perfectly to the role, so she approached the royalty company to ask permission to have a man cast in the role.  Other cast members include Maeghan McDonald as Tracy, Bill Lovern as Edna, John Fredo as Wilbur, and Natalie Slipko as Velma. 

Harper Lee’s ‘To Kill a Mockingbird’ – the Aaron Sorkin production – comes to the Kav opening November 8.   O’Donnell says that 70% of last year’s proposed cast is cast in this production. “It’s a totally re-imagined play,” O’Donnell says. While the theater is still recovering from the significant financial losses last year’s cancellation caused, Sorkin and the Rudin organization gave the theatre an exclusive arrangement for this production, including a free pass on royalties to stage the show this season. Kyle LoConti will direct.

The second musical of the season, ‘The Bridges of Madison County’ is a regional premiere, opening January 10.  Based on Robert James Waller’s novel followed by the Meryl Streep and Clint Eastman movie, Jason Robert Brown composed a lush score for this love story. O’Donnell and actors Steve Copps and Michelle Marie Benzin and video director Brian Milbrand traveled to Iowa – the story’s setting – over the summer to capture video images of the quaint town where the story is set. The visit gave the actors a real sense of the environment and allowed Milbrand to capture stunning images that will help set the stage. O’Donnell will direct and Kelly Copps with choreograph.

Opening March 6, the Kav will collaborate with the Jewish Repertory Theatre to produce the Pulitzer Prize winning play ‘ Indecent’, fresh from its Broadway run two years ago. When the show was written in the 1920s, it was banned in the US:  it’s play-within-a-play story based on a Yiddish story about two women who fall in love was too controversial for the time. Kristen Tripp Kelley will direct.

Closing out the season and opening May 1 is ‘The Mystery of Irma Vepp,’ a take off on gothic romances. Norm Sham and Brian Mysliwy play eight different roles. “It’s a quick change marathon,” O’Donnell says, “and it’s hilarious.”

Learn more about the season and Kavinoky’s other events at http://www.kavinokytheatre.com.

2019 Arties Wrap Up

The 29th Annual Artie Awards presented by WNED/WBFO at Shea’s 710 Theatre on Monday night was a spectacle of sparkles and selfies in celebration of Buffalo’s theatre community. Theatre practitioners and those who love them packed the space to honor outstanding achievements from this year’s theatre season, and share a laugh or two…or many.

The evening began with an acknowledgment to the Arties’ charity of choice, ECMC HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency Services, which benefits from the annual Red Ribbon collection. To date the theatre community has contributed almost $500,000 to support the agency’s important work.

Next up was the opening number, gloriously delivered by Amy Jakiel and Charmagne Chi. “Welcome to Arties Night in Buffalo,” sung to the tune of Fun Home’s  “Welcome to Our House on Maple Avenue,” the tune was a witty homage to this year’s nominees, and even poked fun choreographer-director Michael Walline’s multiple nominations.  Co-host, founder and producer Anthony Chase announced the traditional first award of the night (Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Play) to newcomer Augustus Donaldson, Jr. for his role in Native Son at the Paul Robeson Theatre.

In a playbill and menu couture crinolined skirt, Lisa Ludwig paid tribute to Jay Desiderio, recipient of this year’s Outstanding Achievement Award. His revisioning of his family’s restaurant into dinner theatre destination quality cuisine and productions is beloved by audiences and actors alike. Desiderio’s acceptance speech gave the evening it’s unofficial theme: family. He talked about his birth family and his theatre family, and that sentiment pervaded the rest of the evening celebratory vibes. Later on when Louis Colaiacovo accepted his Artie for Outstanding Leading Actor in a Musical for Second Generation Theatre’s production of “Big Fish,” he cited his mom – a school nurse whose work doesn’t always result in a room full of love – for her support and encouragement. This earned her a standing ovation. Arin Lee Dandes, a founder of Second Generation Theatre whose production of “Big Fish” won the Artie for Outstanding Production of a Musical, remembered her late mother. Dandes says “Big Fish” was the first show after her mother’s passing which added poignancy and reflection to the moment.

Yes, the Buffalo theatre community is indeed a family. It’s heartening to hear the cheers theatre folk have for their peers and the support they show, even with good natured ribbing on the side.

There were other bright spots, too. O’Connell & Company’s spirited rendition of “Sit Down John” from “1776” (winner for Outstanding Ensemble of a Musical), and Melinda Capeles’ number from Raices Theatre Company’s La Lupe: My Life, My Destiny brought down the house.

The winners are highlighted and there are links to Buffalo Theatre Guide reviews sprinkled in:

Augustus Donaldson, Jr., Native Son, Paul Robeson Theatre
Al Garrison, King Hedley II, Paul Robeson Theatre
Adriano Gatto, Equivocation, The Kavinoky Theatre
Dudney Joseph Jr., Angels in America, Second Generation Theatre
Patrick Moltane, Sive, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Adam Yellen, Frost/Nixon, Irish Classical Theatre Company

Charmagne Chi, Silence! The Musical, Buffalo United Artists
Arin Lee Dandes, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre
Dominique Kempf, Ragtime, MusicalFare Theatre

Victoria Perez, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
Michele Marie Roberts, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre
Emily Yancey, 1776: The Musical, O’Connell & Company

Tom Makar, sound design, Hamlet, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Brian Milbrand, video design, 1984, The Kavinoky Theatre

Chester Popiolkowski, sound design, The Jungle Book, Theatre of Youth
John Rickus, lighting, The Illusion, Road Less Traveled Productions
Brett Runyon, puppet design, Little Shop of Horrors, O’Connell & Company
Bob Van Valin, video design, Fahrenheit 451, Subversive Theatre Collective


Chris Hatch, Much Ado About Nothing, Shakespeare in Delaware Park
Tom Dudzick, Christmas Over the Tavern, MusicalFare Theatre
Alphonso Walker, Jr., Native Son, Paul Robeson Theatre
Edward G. Smith, King Hedley II, Paul Robeson Theatre

Carlos R.A. Jones, Purlie, Paul Robeson Theatre
Lynne Kurdziel Formato, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre


Carly Luksch, Heathers: The Musical, American Repertory Theater of Western New York
Michael Walline, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
Michael Walline, Ragtime, MusicalFare Theatre
Michael Walline, Late in the Evening, MusicalFare Theatre

Cassie Cameron, Golden Boy, Irish Classical Theatre Company

Diane DiBernardo, The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, Road Less Traveled Productions
Kiana Duggan-Haas, Sive, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Janae Leonard, Native Son, Paul Robeson Theatre
Maureen Anne Porter, The Ladies Foursome, Desiderio’s Dinner Theatre
Renita Shadwick, King Hedley II, Paul Robeson Theatre

Louis Colaiacovo, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre

Philip Farugia, Murder for Two, MusicalFare Theatre
Greg Gjurich, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre
London Lee, Purlie, Paul Robeson Theatre
Jordan Levin, Parade, American Repertory Theater of Western New York
Lorenzo Shawn Parnell, Ragtime, MusicalFare Theatre


The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, adapted by Torn Space from original screenplay by John Cassavetes
King John (adaptation), Larry Smith
Late in the Evening, Michael Walline
Once In My Lifetime: A Buffalo Football Fantasy, Donna Hoke

The Sidewalk Stageplay (adaptation), Paulette Harris and Edreys Wajed
Tales of the Driven, Kurt Schneiderman

Melinda Capeles, La Lupe: My Life, My Destiny, Raíces Theatre Company
Maria Droz, Silence! The Musical, Buffalo United Artists
Melissa Leventhal, Mother Jones in Heaven (and Hell), Subversive Theatre Collective
Pamela Rose Mangus, 1776, O’Connell & Company
Jenny Marie McCabe, Little Shop of Horrors, O’Connell & Company
Michele Marie Roberts, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre


Paul Bostaph, Lady Windermere’s Fan, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Dyan Burlingame, The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, Road Less Traveled Productions
David Dwyer, Talley’s Folly, Jewish Repertory Theatre
Bethany Kasperek, Miss Bennet: Christmas at Pemberley, Road Less Traveled Productions
Lynne Koscielniak, The Illusion, Road Less Traveled Productions

Kenneth Shaw, The Jungle Book, Theatre of Youth


Jacob Albarella, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
Kyle BaranRagtime, MusicalFare Theatre

Steve Copps, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre
Tim Goehrig, Parade, American Repertory Theatre of Western New York
Alejandro Gabriel Gomez, Desde el Puente: Musical Edition, Raíces Theatre Company
Peter Palmisano, Sweeney Todd, The Kavinoky Theatre


Ray Boucher, Sive, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Chris J. Handley, Talley’s Folly, Jewish Repertory Theatre
Jack Hunter, Frost/Nixon, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Jimmy Janowski, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, Buffalo United Artists
Stan Klimecko, The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Torn Space
Ben Michael Moran, Angels in America, Second Generation Theatre

Jenna Damberger, The Illusion, Road Less Traveled Productions
Kari Drozd, Frost/Nixon, Irish Classical Theatre Company
A. Lise Harty, Sense & Sensibility, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Dixon Reynolds, The Three Musketeers, All for One Theatre Productions
Kenneth Shaw, The Jungle Book, Theatre of Youth
Jess Wegrzyn/Kelly Copps/Sarah Bos, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre


Charmagne ChiRagtime, MusicalFare Theatre
Jake Hayes, Little Shop of Horrors, O’Connell & Company
Kevin Kennedy, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre
Marc Sacco, Sweeney Todd, The Kavinoky Theatre
David Spychalski, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
Christopher Standart, Philosophus, Alleyway Theatre

Kristin Bentley, Angels in America, Second Generation Theatre
Bethany Burrows, After the Fall, Subversive Theatre Collective and Post-Industrial Productions
Marie Costa, King John, New Phoenix Theatre
Lisa Ludwig, Annapurna, New Phoenix Theatre
Aleks MalejsSive, Irish Classical Theatre Company

Christine Turturro, The Undeniable Sound of Right Now, Road Less Traveled Productions

Randall Kramer, Ragtime, MusicalFare Theatre
Lynne Kurdziel Formato, Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre
Victoria Pérez, La Lupe: My Life, My Destiny, Raíces Theatre Company
Steve Vaughan, 1776, O’Connell & Company
Michael Walline, Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
Doug Weyand, Murder for Two, MusicalFare Theatre

Brian Cavanagh, Frost/Nixon, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Paulette D. Harris, Native Son, Paul Robeson Theatre
Vincent O’Neill, Sive, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Fortunato Pezzimenti, Golden Boy, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Dan ShanahanThe Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Torn Space
Todd Warfield, The Absolute Brightness of Leonard Pelkey, Buffalo United Artists

1776, O’Connell & Company


Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
Desde el Puente: Musical Edition, Raíces Theatre Company
Late in the Evening, MusicalFare Theatre
Parade, American Repertory Theatre of Western New York
Silence! The Musical, Buffalo United Artists

Equivocation, The Kavinoky Theatre
Golden Boy, Irish Classical Theatre Company
The Jungle Book, Theatre of Youth


The Life and Death of King John, New Phoenix Theatre
Sense & Sensibility, Irish Classical Theatre Company
Sive, Irish Classical Theatre Company

1776, O’Connell & Company
Big Fish, Second Generation Theatre
La Lupe: My Life, My Destiny, Raíces Theatre Company
Ragtime, MusicalFare Theatre
Silence! The Musical, Buffalo United Artists
Spamalot, The Kavinoky Theatre

Between Riverside and Crazy, Road Less Traveled Productions
Equivocation, The Kavinoky Theatre
Frost/Nixon, Irish Classical Theatre Company

The Jungle Book, Theatre of Youth
The Killing of a Chinese Bookie, Torn Space
Sive, Irish Classical Theatre Company

Doug Weyand curates this fun look at the big data behind the Arties, too.


Alleyway to Celebrate 40th Anniversary Year With Key Staff Changes


Chris J Handley and Neal Radice

Picture it, Alleyway Theatre in 2019, with some new staff members, and eight productions including a “The Golden Girls”  holiday shows where Blanche, Rose, Sophia, and Dorothy are played by men.

Welcome to Alleyway’s 40th season. It’s the oldest producing theatre company in Buffalo’s theatre district, and the 2019-20 season brings some significant changes.

Founder and executive and artistic director Neal Radice is retiring  from his positions (“not retiring from theatre,” he said at a recent press event).  This transition was thoughtful, strategic, and spanned almost three years: funding from the Cullen Foundation and the New York State Council on the Arts helped create a succession plan.  Veteran actor Chris J Handley was selected by Alleyway’s Board of Directors to become the Associate Artistic Director, effective immediately, and step into the Executive Artistic Director role in May of 2020. “I’ve always dreamed about running a theatre,” Handley said. He’s also the director of Alleyway’s Theatre School of WNY which provides year-round classes for adults and youth who are serious about studying theatre.

Neal Radice announced that Broadway playwright Gordon Farrell will become Alleyway’s Playwright-in-Residence next season. He’ll develop his own new scripts for Alleyway’s main seasons as well as take on the writing challenge of developing particularly themed plays on commission. Farrell is already familiar to Alleyway audiences.  His play ‘Girls Who Walked on Glass’ is onstage now through June 22. The theatrical event is based on true stories that intertwine to expose a dangerous world which has ill-prepared three young women to meet challenges and temptations. After this run, it will be performed for general audience and potential backers in New York City. Farrell’s work in Buffalo goes back as far as 1991 with ‘Voice Of America.’ He and Radice collaborated to create their highly acclaimed Sherlock Holmes musical trilogy in the late 1990s. ‘Lifespan Of A Fact,’ Farrell’s latest play, debuted to critical acclaim this season on Broadway at Roundabout’s Studio 54, and earned Farrell a nomination for the John Gassner Award (Presented For An American Play, Preferably By A New Playwright) by the Outer Circle Critics.

Another Farrell play, ‘Navigators,’ the 40th season on September 12 on the main stage. Local playwright John “Circ” Kane’s ‘My Life in the Basement’ – a one-man comedy –  runs November 8-16 in the Alleyway Cabaret. ‘The Golden Girls: The Lost Episodes’ follows December 5-28, while one of Buffalo’s oldest and beloved holiday traditions ‘A Christmas Carol’ plays on the main stage December 6-22. Scott McCrea’s ‘Factory for Murderers’ plays on the main stage from January 16-February 8, followed by the world premiere of Tatiana Gelfand and Paul Jensen’s Scotch and Madness’ February 20-March 14. The 29th annual ‘Buffalo Quickies’ runs from March 26 to April 18. The main stage season closes with Radice’s reflections on 40 years of Buffalo theatre with ‘Imagine the World Made Over…’ a revue of his full length musicals, April 23 to May 16.

Find details and subscription information at http://www.alleyway.com.

Kenny Awards Celebrate 26 Years Honoring High School Theatre

Students from the Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts were nominated for multiple Kenny Awards for their production of Les Miserables this year.

This year marks the 26th anniversary of the Kenny Awards, a program launched by the Lipke Foundation in collaboration with Shea’s Performing Arts Center to support and honor high school theatre programs in Erie, Niagara, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, and Allegany counties.

Nominees in 14 categories were announced at the Shea’s Smith Theatre on April 17. This year’s finalists for the coveted Outstanding Musical Production are:

  • Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts for “Les Miserables”;
  • Cleveland Hill Union Free School for “Newsies”;
  • Cuba-Rushford Middle-High School for “Annie”;
  • John F. Kennedy High School for “The Wizard of Oz”;
  • Nardin Academy for “The Kind and I”;
  • Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School for “Sister Act”;
  • St. Mary’s High School for “The Addams Family”;
  • Sweet Home High School for “Mamma Mia!”;
  • Tonawanda High School for “Mamma Mia!”;


  • West Seneca West Senior High School for Legally Blonde.

The winning school will receive a $10,000 grant from the Lipke Foundation to exclusively benefit the school’s theatre program. The prize doubled in its 25th year: to date the Lipke Foundation has donated $125,000 to area high school theatre programs. Winners will be announced at the annual Kenny Award ceremony on May 11.

The Kenny Awards were developed by Buffalo native Meredith Lipke to honor the family’s patriarch Dr. Kenneth Lipke, founder of Gibraltar Steel, and a respected patron of the arts. Dr. Lipke had strong beliefs about the value of the arts community and the impact the arts can have on young lives. The program evolved to be more than a “best of” competition. Additional programs and opportunities for participating schools emphasize that participating in school theatre programs is transformative, whether it’s shaping the next generation theatre professional or theatre-loving audience member.There is immediate impact for students, too. “High school is hard enough,” says Carlisle Lipke Mitchell, executive director of the program and Dr. Lipke’s granddaughter. “By participating in a high school theatre production, any student can be part of something, on stage or behind the scenes, as a performer or not. To feel a part of something is really so important.”

Enhancing and evolving the program to meet a myriad of student performance and social needs is at the heart of this partnership. While the list of award categories has grown, enrichment opportunities have also increased. There’s even an annual Social Event where students can network and mingle. This came as a result of one of Lipke Mitchell’s observations during a past nomination announcement: “The kids were cheering for each other, not just their own schools.”  Fostering the sense of collegiality in an otherwise competitive setting is a plus in whole person development, which is a key attribute in theatre studies. It’s also a poignant reminder that the program honors the spirit of a family with strong local ties who found value in the intersection of Buffalo’s business and cultural communities.

The rest of the nominations include:

Outstanding Orchestral Performance

Cleveland Hill Union Free School – “Newsies”

Nardin Academy –  “The Kind and I”

Niagara Wheatfield High School – “Sister Act”

West Seneca West High School – “Legally Blonde”


Outstanding Technical Design

Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts – “Les Miserables”;

Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I”

Sweet Home High School – “Mamma Mia!”

Tonawanda High School – “Mamma Mia!”


Outstanding Choral Performance

Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts – “Les Miserables”

Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I”

Tonawanda High School- “Mamma Mia!”

West Seneca West High School -”Legally Blonde”


Outstanding Scenic Design

Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts -”Les Miserables”;

Cuba-Rushford Middle-High School – “Annie”;

Tonawanda High School – “Mamma Mia!”;

West Seneca West Senior High Schoo l- Legally Blonde.

Outstanding Dramatic Performance

Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts – “Les Miserables”;

Cleveland Hill Union Free School – “Newsies”;

Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I”;

West Seneca West Senior High School – Legally Blond.


Outstanding Costume Design

Cleveland Hill Union Free School – “Newsies”;

Niagara Wheatfield Senior High School – “Sister Act”;

St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”;

West Seneca West Senior High School – Legally Blond


Outstanding Dance Performance

Cleveland Hill Union Free- School for “Newsies”;

St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”;

Sweet Home High School – “Mamma Mia!”;

West Seneca West Senior High School – Legally Blond.


The Showstopper Award lives up to its name: it’s the number that generates palpable audience excitement. This year’s nominees are:

“Bows” and ending mega mix, Tonawanda High School – “Mamma Mia!”

“The King of New York,” Cleveland Hill Union Free School – “Newsies”

“Lay Your Love on Me,” Sweet Home High School -”Mamma Mia!”

“Whipped Into Shape,” West Seneca West High School – “Legally Blonde”.


The Kenny adjudication team added a new category to honor younger performers for outstanding work with the high school casts.

The Rising Star Special Recognition performers are:

Jacob Dutka as the Mayor of Munchkinland, John F. Kennedy High School – “The Wizard of Oz”

Johnny Kiener, as Prince Chulalongkorn, Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I”

Samuel Parker as Gavroche, Buffalo Academy – the Visual and Performing Arts for “Les Miserables”

Jonah Williams as Les, Cleveland Hill Union Free School – “Newsies”.


The Blossom Cohan Award honors the late doyenne of Buffalo theatre. Her work on stage and later behind the scenes at Studio Arena Theatre helped shape Buffalo’s theatre community. This award is given to the perform who “blossoms” in a role.

Sean Jones as Race, Cleveland Hill Union Free School – “Newsies”

Haylee Morris as Rosie, Tonawanda High School – “Mamma Mia!”;

Abby Pocziwinsk as Sister Mary Lazarus, Niagara Wheatfield High Schoo – “Sister Act”

Issac Stearns as Lurch, St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”


Outstanding Performance by an Ensemble

The ancestors, St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”

The Greek Chorus, West Seneca West High School –  “Legally Blonde”

Joey, TJ, Pablo, Niagara Wheatfield High School-  “Sister Act”

Tanya and Rosie, Tonawanda High School -”Mamma Mia!”;


Outstanding Actress in a Supporting Role

Tallulah Gordon as Madame Thenardier, Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts -”Les Miserables”

Mary Clare Noonan, Tuptim, Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I”

Lucy San George, Paulette, West Seneca West High School – “Legally Blonde”

Emily Smith as Fantine, Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts – “Les Miserables”


Outstanding Actor in a Supporting Role

Andrew Cegielski as Scarecrow, John F. Kennedy High School – “The Wizard of Oz”

Robert Dauria as Lun Tha, Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I” St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”

Marten Linnan as Lucas, St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”

Nick Scott as Curtis Jackson, Niagara Wheatfield High School- “Sister Act”


Outstanding Actress in a Leading Role

Alexandra Bastian as Sophie, Sweet Home High School -”Mamma Mia!”

Alaina Buckenroth as Mother Superior, Niagara Wheatfield High School-  “Sister Act”

Emily Kuhn as Sophie, Tonawanda High School -”Mamma Mia!”

Jessica Molle as Lady Thiang, Nardin Academy – “The Kind and I”

Kathryn Opalinski as Donna, Tonawanda High School -”Mamma Mia!”

Penelope Sergi as Elle Woods, West Seneca West High School –  “Legally Blonde”


Outstanding Actor in a Leading Role

Robert Barksdale as Emmett, West Seneca West High School –  “Legally Blonde”

Lane Findlay as Oliver Warbucks, Cuba-Rushford Middle-High School – “Annie”

Isaiah Gethers as Javert, Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts -”Les Miserables”

Dylan Gurnari as Gomez Addams, St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”

Austin Marshall as The King, St. Mary’s High School – “The Addams Family”

Mathew Wilson as Jean Valjean, Buffalo Academy for the Visual and Performing Arts -”Les Miserables”

The Kenny Awards is one of 43 regional programs to participate in The National High School Musical Theatre Awards  (The Jimmy Awards), a program of the Broadway League Foundation. The Outstanding Actor and Actress in a Leading Role Kenny award winners will be sent to the New York City to participate in this year’s Jimmy Awards program, June 24, hosted by Tony Award winning actor Ben Platt. Learn more about the Jimmy Awards here.  

The Annual Kenny Awards ceremony will be held at Shea’s Performing Arts Center on Saturday, May 11, 6pm. Tickets are $8 and go on sale at the box office on April 27. Learn more about the Kenny Awards here.







RLTP Celebrates New Work

Theatres are usually dark on Monday nights, but Road Less Traveled Productions is shining its spotlight tonight in honor of regional playwrights whose work was selected for the 10-Minute Play Fest, a new initiative.

Tonight’s 10-Minute Play Fest features seven area playwrights who penned new works to compete in this first-time outreach. Said Scott Behrend, RLTP director, “RLTP has supported WNY playwrights for 15 years. The nature of that support has continually evolved, and I wanted to create an opportunity for new playwrights to showcase their work and to introduce some of them to the WNY theatre community. “

RLTP Literary Department Manager Katie Malinson and New Play Coordinator Jon Elston managed this project which began last year with an open submission call. Playwrights from Rochester to Ontario responded and a team of adjudicators reviewed each submission to arrive at the seven works that are featured tonight. Malinson said, “The intent of this project is to find new voices for the company and reach playwrights who haven’t hadn’t their work produced at RLTP yet and have their new works on our stage.”

The plays will be presented tonight as staged readings, with a different cast for each play. The playwright and the director collaborated on casting. This project attracted some new-to-RLTP actors and directors, as well. “There are so many people I haven’t worked with,” says Malinson.

Malinson said she is pleased with the results from this first-time outreach. “We’ve done other staged readings before, but not like this. All of tonight’s plays are quirky, fun pieces with different takes on life and relationships.”

For the playwrights, this is another opportunity to have their work heard by a live audience. Perhaps it’s also that little extra nudge a writer may need to develop a short work into a full-length play. Darleen Pickering-Hummert is one of the seven playwrights selected for this evening’s reading. She says, “I think writers always have anxiety about sharing their work with anyone else and in this case, it’s with a live audience!   I’m over the moon to have Connie Caldwell reading my “Stage Mothers” piece directed by Kyle LoConti. Thanks to Road Less Traveled for presenting this event because it’s so important to encourage and nurture playwrights.”  

In addition to Stage Mothers, tonight’s line up includes: “1/5” by Jes Tokarski; “In The Air Tomorrow Night” by j. Snodgrass; “Blood Orange” by Marcus Scott; “A Play Within A Play” by Hilary Lyons; “Cog and Em” by Nolan Miles; and “Pausing at the Fringe” by David Healey.

The RLTP 10-Minute Play Fest is a one-night only event on Monday January 28 at 7:30pm.  Tickets are $10 each and available online at www.roadlesstraveledproductions.org, or by calling the RLTP Box Office at (716) 629-3069.  Seating is limited. Advance purchase required.

Support Local Theatre By Supporting Our People in Need


Support a worthy cause while you enjoy a once-in-a-lifetime performance.

On Friday, June 8, at 11pm, members of the national touring company of LOVE NEVER DIES will partner with Alleyway Theatre to present LATE NIGHT WITH THE CAST, a benefit concert to raise money for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS and for the WNED/WBFO Artie Awards effort to benefit Erie County Medical Center’s HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency Services.

LATE NIGHT WITH THE CAST will feature members of the cast of the national touring company of LOVE NEVER DIES singing songs from musicals and performers that inspired them to become a performer.

“We’ve decided on tributes to the performances that have inspired us. So each of us is going to sing something from a show or by a particular performer that have shaped who each of us is as an artist,” said LOVE NEVER DIES cast member Adam Soniak.

Set to appear are Karen Mason (Broadway’s MAMMA MIA!, HAIRSPRAY, SUNSET BOULEVARD), Correy West (Broadway’s NICE WORK IF YOU CAN GET IT, SOUTH PACIFIC), Lucas John Thompson (Broadway’s CATS), Sean Thompson (Broadway’s SUNSET BOULEVARD), and more!


Alleyway Theatre is thrilled to build on the success of April’s PHANTOM UNMASKED benefit.  “When cast members of LOVER NEVER DIES contacted Alleyway Theatre Associate Artistic Director Chris J Handley about doing another benefit, we responded with an immediate yes.  We’re looking forward to another very special performance and are proud to serve such worthy causes” said Joyce Stilson, Alleyway’s Director of Public Relations.

Alleyway Theatre (672 Main St, Buffalo) will open the doors to the Main Street Cabaret at 10:30pm and the performance will begin at 11pm. Seating is limited and your kind donation of $25 (or more) is appreciated. Visit www.alleyway.com for details and to make tour donation to reserve your seat.

ECMCʼs HIV/AIDS and Immunodeficiency services are the largest comprehensive care center of its kind in Western New York. The hospital’s immunodeficiency clinic is also a PCMH Level 3 Certified Clinic.  The Immunodeficiency Services group strives to meet the needs of people with HIV/AIDS with physicians, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, nurses, case managers, nutritional consultants, drug counselors, and mental health counselors on staff and also through partnerships with a myriad of community agencies.

In providing care, ECMC’s Immunodeficiency Services group aims to meet several important goals:

  • Improving quality of life for HIV-positive patients through early intervention and optimal care.
  • Providing HIV/AIDS clinical education and consultation to providers.
  • Offer advocacy and case management services for HIV/AIDS patients.
  • Establish HIV prevention as a top priority.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is one of the nation’s leading industry-based, nonprofit AIDS fundraising and grant-making organizations. By drawing upon the talents, resources, and generosity of the American theatre community, since 1988 Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS has raised more than $300 million for essential services for people with AIDS and other critical illnesses across the United States.

Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS is the major supporter of the social service programs at The Actors Fund, including the HIV/AIDS Initiative, the Phyllis Newman Women’s Health Initiative and the Samuel J. Friedman Health Center for the Performing Arts. Broadway Cares also awards annual grants to more than 450 AIDS and family service organizations in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and Washington, DC, providing lifesaving medication, healthy meals, counseling and emergency assistance.

For more information, please visit Broadway Cares online at broadwaycares.org, at facebook.com/BCEFA, at instagram.com/BCEFA, at twitter.com/BCEFA and at youtube.com/BCEFA.