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Melissa Rivers to speak at MJCCA on “Lies My Mother Told Me”

2022 October 15
by Susan Asher

Joan Rivers, one of the most famous comics of the last century, was known for her acerbic barbs, her TV talk- and reality-shows, commercials, sales pitches on QVC, movies, books, and–according to her daughter Melissa Rivers in her memoir “The Book of Joan: Tales of Mirth, Mischief and Manipulation”–for her more than 300 cosmetic and plastic surgery procedures.

In her latest book, “Lies My Mother Told Me,” New York Times best-selling author Melissa Rivers dishes up a comedic look at the lies people tell their children. While the stories in this book aren’t actual lies that Joan told Melissa, they are stories that may have ever the slightest basis of truth built into them based on their lives.

Melissa worked alongside her mother for years, producing TV shows and working as a comedy duo. She will speak with CNN editorial producer Nadia Bilchik about the book and her life with Joan at the 31st Edition of the Book Festival of the MJCCA on Nov. 5 at 8 p.m. Tickets start at $38 and can be purchased here.

The talk will be held at the Marcus Jewish Community Center of Atlanta5342 Tilly Mill Road
Atlanta, GA 30338.

Learn more about the various celebrities and authors who will be presenting at the Book Festival Nov. 3-19.

World Premiere of Water for Elephants at the Alliance Theatre

2022 September 21
by Susan Asher

A SPECTACULAR NEW MUSICAL BASED ON THE CRITICALLY ACCLAIMED AND BEST-SELLING NOVEL BY SARA GRUEN

BOOK BY RICK ELICE

MUSIC AND LYRICS BY PIGPEN THEATRE CO.

DIRECTED BY JESSICA STONE

PERFORMANCES WILL TAKE PLACE ON THE ALLIANCE THEATRE’S AWARD-WINNING COCA-COLA STAGE, JUNE 4 – JULY 9, 2023

Tickets are now on sale for the Alliance Theatre’s upcoming world premiere musical, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS.  Based on the critically acclaimed and best-selling novel by Sara Gruen, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is an adventure filled with romance, deception, and a little bit of magic, all under the big top of a traveling circus.  Closing the Alliance’s 54th season, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will premiere on the Coca-Cola Stage June 4 – July 9, 2023.

In WATER FOR ELEPHANTS, Jacob Jankowski is running towards a new life when he hitches a ride on a mysterious train.  He finds himself in the heart of a traveling circus, the Benzini Bros Most Spectacular Show On Earth, with a new job, a new home, and a new family. When charismatic ringmaster August brings Rosie the elephant on as the new star attraction, Jacob and August’s wife Marlena join forces to train her.  As Jacob and Marlena’s shared compassion develops into love, August’s cruel nature surfaces, threatening to derail Jacob’s life once more.  Brought to theatrical life by an internationally acclaimed and innovative creative team, WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will reignite your dreams of running away with the circus.

WATER FOR ELEPHANTS is helmed by an exciting creative team led by Director Jessica Stone (Kimberly Akimbo), with a book by Rick Elice (Jersey Boys, Peter and the Starcatcher), and a score by the award-winning PigPen Theatre Co.  Additional casting and creative team information for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS will be announced in early 2023.

Tickets for WATER FOR ELEPHANTS are available now at www.alliancetheatre.org/waterforelephants

‘The Outrage Machine’ at The Essential Theatre

2022 August 11
by Susan Asher
Evrett (Mattthew Ferro, left), Rina (Hannah Morris, right) photo by Elisabeth Cooper

 “The Outrage Machine” looks at today’s media – newspapers, magazine, social media posts – and the way readers and publishers react to so-called journalism. It’s an excellent play that is making its world premiere at The Essential Theatre, and it deserves to be performed on many more stages.

Rina (Hannah Morris), an Uber driver, picks up a passenger, Marlen (Jeff Hathcoat), who offers to give her $50 to drop him off at a bar, keep the meter running and stop the meter two blocks away. He’s planning to avenge the death of a leopard who died in a hunt at the hands of a tycoon. Rina has to choose: ethics or money, and that’s the crux of life in “The Outrage Machine.”

Living with her sister Ellie (Ellie Styron) to make ends meet until she finds a full-time job, Rina goes out on a blind date to cheer herself up. She meets Neil (David Soyka), an entrepreneur who runs a website known for its sensational headlines and outrageous stories created to capture readers and clicks. Only at the very bottom of the story does he disclose the truth: the story is a lie. Rina is appalled at the lies and says this type of writing is deceitful.

Soon thereafter, Rina writes a social media headline that gets lots of clicks and receives an offer from a publisher, Henry (Ajejandro Guitierrez) to work as a freelancer creating sensational headlines for his new alternative newspaper, The Centurion. Her headlines attract an inordinate amount of clicks, bringing her notoriety and increasing her drive for telling stories that aren’t being told. But in time Rina, realizes that even the alternative newspaper out to tell the truth about stories that typically never get written in traditional newspapers, won’t publish stories that might be contradictory to environmental activist points of view.  

However, the superstar headline writer discovers that there can be bad consequences to telling the truth as organizations can fight back and fight dirty. Interspersed throughout the play on the screen behind the actors are real news headlines that strike a reader like a thunderbolt and hail from both yellow journalism newspapers and reputable ones like Vox, the New York Times and BuzzFeed.

While the overall acting may be lacking from this production—except from Guitierrez who is believable in his scenes—the writing and storyline make this production worthwhile. This is a smartly written play that deserves to be performed in well-known theaters around the country.

Written by Daniel Carter Brown, directed by Peter Hardy, “The Outrage Machine” was the co-winner of the 2020 Essential Theatre Playwriting Award and runs through Aug. 27. Due to COVID, it is just now making its premiere. Festival tickets are now on sale at www.essentialtheatre.tix.com.

Cast:

Daryl Patrice (Val Moon)
Matthew Ferro (Ari, Evrett, Host)
Anna Fontaine (Blair)
Jeff Hathcoat (Marlen, Jude, Whit)
Kelly Nguyen (Tay, Corie, Kennedy)

Clear Instructions on Buying I Bonds: How to navigate the worst website and actually buy I Bonds without spending an hour trying to figure out how to do it

2022 June 19
by Susan Asher

Everyone is talking about it. Up until October 2022, you can buy I bonds at the current rate of 9.62%, which is good for six months.

But navigating the Treasury Direct website is a nightmare. I and others I know have spent hours trying to navigate it, inputting in a ton of information, only to have it say at the end, the system isn’t working now and try again later. You can’t get anyone to answer the phone there or answer an email.

So tonight, I finally was able to open an account. Finally! I must have been attempting it for an hour.

The website is one of the worst websites. There are dozens and dozens of links on a page. And when you click on “How to Buy an I bond,” you don’t see a link that says anything like “Buy an I Bond.”

I don’t normally write about finance, but I want to help you navigate it relatively quickly. Without clear instructions like I’m going to give you, it’s hard to do because the links you need to click on are tiny and they may be in light gray! Other links are in blue, but the link you’re going to be looking for may be in light gray, so you can barely see it. And it doesn’t even say “Buy an I Bond.” To be fair, perhaps the link at one time was in blue, but maybe because I clicked the link at some point before, it is now and has been for the past weeks, in light gray as if the link is grayed out. If the link turned purple once you have clicked on it just once within any time frame, that would be fine. But this link is barely perceptible. OK, enough of my gripes!

Before you try to open an account, have your checking account and routing number and your driver’s license with you as you will need that information to open an account.

Instructions

On the Treasury Direct homepage, on the left-hand side of the page under the column titled Individuals, click on How to Buy Series I. The new page that pops up is a beast. There is a link there that says “How Can I Buy Bonds.” Click that link. Scroll about half-way down and it will say:

How can I buy I bonds?

Two options:

Click the first option: Buy them in electronic form in our online program TreasuryDirect.

Once on the Treasury Direct page, about midway down the body of the text, to the right of a bullet point there are four tiny links–all the links are tiny. You want to click on either “Log in Now” or “Open an Account.” Of course, if you’re trying to open an account, you’ll click Open an Account. A new page will open and at the very bottom of the page, click Apply Now. If you already have an account and want to purchase I Bonds, click “Log in Now.” That will take you to a new page titled TreasuryDirect Login. Under that title, is an orange button that says Login. Click that Login button.

With these instructions, this will be very easy. Without these instructions, people have spent more than an hour trying to navigate this unruly website.

This blog post was written on June 19, 2022. As of this date, the instructions above are accurate.

‘The Wake’ at the Shakespeare Tavern May 8, 15, 22

2022 April 17
by Susan Asher

“The Wake,” a new play by one of my favorite most creative playwrights, Vennie Meli, premieres Sundays this May.

Finneas O’Conner has died, and his old cronies gather together to celebrate his life. They share laughs, sing songs and settle old scores. A woman competes with the funeral director for attention, a brawl erupts and while singing the song “Tim Finnegan’s Irish Wake,” when they get to the part about whiskey splashing on Tim Finnegan, he is brought back to life and appears. This song about the celebration of life, death and resurrection, is just one of many that crowds will know and sing along with. The friends get rowdy and compete and argue while singing familiar songs, as well as new ones written by Scott Depoy and Venni Meli. It’s a fun, lighthearted and touching show about the loss of loved ones and the memories they leave behind.

The show’s playwright, Vynnie Meli, has written plays that have been produced across the U.S., and her short-form operas have played in Australia and Germany. Twice selected for the New York Musical Festival, her musical A Cappella received numerous NYMF awards, the SteeleSprings Stage Rights Publishing Award and Alliance Theatre’s Atlanta Artists Reiser Lab. A semi-finalist for the Eugene O’Neill Award and Finalist for Theatre Resources Unlimited/TRU, she’s received ATHE and Jane Chambers Awards Honorable Mentions; and Poets & Writers Magazine and Anna Sosenko Grants. Locally, she’s received the Essential Theatre and Metropolitan Atlanta Theatre Awards for “Best New Work” and the Atlanta branch of the Nat’l League of Pen Women Award for Playwright of the Year.

Musical director Scott DePoy sang on the soundtrack for the film Cold Mountain and at the Academy Awards with Elvis Costello and Alison Krauss. He has written songs for Kaiser Permanente, Imagine it! The Children’s Museum, and has composed and performed the music for several shows, including A Child’s Garden of Verses at The Alliance Theatre and Phantom of the Opry at Upstairs at Gene and Gabe’s. He has been a musician for Cotton Patch Gospel at Theatrical Outfit and Ring of Fire and Almost Heaven; The John Denver Story at Georgia Ensemble Theatre.

Director Mira Hirsch was the founder and artistic director of Jewish Theatre of the South for the whole of that company’s thirteen-year history. She is currently a secondary school theatre teacher at Atlanta International School and an educational consultant and workshop leader with the National Jewish Theatre Foundation’s Holocaust Theatre International Initiative. Professional and university directing credits include: Indecent (Suzi Awards – nominee Outstanding Direction Play), A Little PrincessThe Best Of Enemies and My Name Is Asher Lev at Theatrical Outfit; Camelot at Atlanta Lyric; The Last Night Of Ballyhoo at Stage Door Players; The Miraculous Journey Of Edward Tulane (Suzi Awards – nominee Outstanding Direction – TYA) at Synchronicity; The Visit and Arcadia at Oglethorpe University; Falsettos (concert production) at Souper Jenny Atlanta; and Anne Frank: Within And Without at the Center for Puppetry Arts. 

ABOUT THE PRODUCTION

The Wake, A New Play With Old Irish Songs, by Vynnie Meli, includes additional music by Scott DePoy with lyrics by Vynnie Meli. It runs at The Shakespeare Tavern, 499 Peachtree Street, NE; Atlanta, GA 30308, 7:30pm Sundays on May 8, 15 and 22. Dinner and drinks are available from 6:15 until 7:20. The show runs 80 minutes with no intermission. Tickets on sale now – $25 for General Admission and $20 for Students, Seniors, Educators & Military. https://tinyurl.com/theirishwake or call the Shakespeare Tavern Box Office 404-874-5299 x 0. Parking is available across the street at Emory University Hospital, Midtown. 

‘Toni Stone at the Alliance Theatre

2022 February 23
by Susan Asher

The Alliance Theatre hits it out of the park with “Toni Stone,” the true story of the life of the first woman to have ever played professional baseball. The cast, script and set design are captivating and the production is stellar.

In the 1940s, Toni Stone (Kedren Spencer) played in the Negro League in the Professional baseball circuit for the Indianapolis Clowns, but her love for the sport began when she was just a child, playing ball all day, and sneaking around the field where the white boys would play so she could listen to the advice of their coach. Her mother wanted to dress her in lace and put her in more girly sports like track and ice skating where she respectively placed third and first, but she didn’t care about those sports.

Baseball is all that is on Toni’s mind. She cites the RBIs and the number of hits for the star players on her baseball cards. Although the white boys don’t know the answers to their coach’s questions, she does.  At practice, she has her own moves: she squats and shakes her butt up and down preparing to catch a ball or run to a base and she winds her arm in circles like a ferris wheel before throwing.

While ragtime and jazz play in the background, the shenanigans on the practice field are choreographed brilliantly, and when the team has to hustle out of a game against a white team where they try to outrun them and get on the bus before getting beat up, it’s a perfect orchestration of timing and ballet.

While racism and sexism abound, as does the humor, and you never feel like you’re being preached to. You’re just there in the background watching the negro league at bat in life enjoying the game, the joking and one another.

“Toni Stone” is a homerun and a win. If you miss this production, you lose.

Written by Lydia R. Diamond, directed by Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, “Toni Stone” runs at the Alliance Theatre through Feb. 27.

Cast

Amar Atkins
Dimonte Henning
Enoch King
Sekou Laidlow
Lau’rie Roach
Dane Troy
Geoffrey D. Williams

Club Hertz Comedy

2021 December 6
by Susan Asher

From Dec. 8 through Dec. 24, CLUB HERTZ LIVE at the Alliance Theatre will feature a variety of different performances each night. Bands and performers were chosen by a panel of music-industry professionals.  

I’m looking forward to seeing comic Mark Kendall host a variety show Thursday and Friday, Dec. 16 and 17 at 8 p.m. Thursdays show will feature the comedy sketch group Black AF. 

Friday night will feature a lineup of solo performers: opera singer Jayme Alilaw, poet and storyteller Theresa Davis, and standup comics Carter Deems (TV’s Wild N’ Out), David Perdue (Kevin’s Hart Presents: Hart of the City on Comedy Central), and Shalewa Sharpe (HBO’s Two Dope Queens and Comedy Central). Below is the lineup of performances beginning Dec. 8.

Tickets can be obtained online. COVID safety protocols and masks are mandatory.

World Premiere of ‘Hometown Boy’

2021 November 20
by Susan Asher

James left the South for college and moved to New York. He brings his girlfriend, Becks (Michelle Pokopac), to his old home where his father, Walter (Glen Kubota), lives and discovers his mind and home have sharply declined. James tells Becks why he hasn’t seen his father in a decade, the actions he took that tore his family apart.

‘Hometown Boy’ at Actor’s Express blends a cast of a couple of outstanding performers with a story about a young man who comes back to his hometown after a decade.

But James has his own problems in relationships. He turns away from Becks, goes to a bar, leaving her home alone for hours with Walter. During his evening jaunt, we learn that James’s problems lie far deeper than closing down communication with his girlfriend and father.

Deceit surrounds the family and its old friend, the former governor, Philip (Chris Kayser) and his daughter, Sam (Allison Dane) and her husband, Collin (Daniel Parvis).

Oh, the lies that have been woven and slowly unfold.

Kayser, Dane and Parvis are outstanding. They and the script make this a worthwhile show.

Written by Keiko Green, directed by Rebecca Wear, “Hometown Boy” runs at Actor’s Express through Nov. 28.

Church Mice at Aurora Theatre

2021 October 3
by Susan Asher
James Brooks

Church Mice is a musical sketch comedy show conceived under a peach tree in Atlanta by a bunch of local comedians during the pandemic. This show is not an indictment on religion. We already know that the stories in the bible can be interpreted six ways to Sunday. But to Love thy neighbor as thyself is a virtue fit a better world. And when folks gather on Sunday to hear the gospel, things get super weird.

Featuring laugh-out-loud sketch comedy, live music, singing, dancing, and a host of crazy characters, Church Mice is filled with side splitting laughter performed by a diverse cast of Atlanta’s funniest musical comedians. Enjoy song parodies during the annual Christian talent show, Youth Pastor Chad’s desperate attempts to boost attendance, and watch reverend James get into a fight with a snake.

Written by Sarah Mckee, Evan Conaway, Brandon Stringfield, Abigail Williams, George N Koulouris, and Will Amato


OCT. 8 at  8PM
in the Lawrenceville Arts Center Courtyard
Outdoor performance under a large tent
TICKETS from $14
Tickets are available in 3 sections.

VIP Tents: $192, includes 6 chairs and a table.
Premium Seating: $22
Standard Seating: $14

Darlin’ Cory at the Alliance Theatre

2021 September 19
by Susan Asher

Just before “Darlin’ Cory” started, my sister and I were in the bathroom saying we had no high expectations for the long play we were about to see. I assured her– as she normally dislikes live theater–that we could leave at intermission.

At intermission I asked if she had a cold. She had been blowing her nose a lot during the performance. No, she said, she was crying. I’m very emotional she said. She cried intermittently throughout the second act as well.

I didn’t cry at all and didn’t understand what had touched her so much. But I can say that from the moment the play started, I was enrapt in it. The action continually moved forward. There wasn’t a moment that the play stood still and I became bored.

I originally knew it was going to be about life of Appalachian country folk, folk I can’t relate to much as I grew up in Atlanta and later lived in Manhattan for six years. I imagined, and feared, it would be another one of those country plays where people sing and dance to yee-haw music. I had pictured banjos, dulcimers and guitars and tunes I could never relate to.

But I could. And the music was great, and the script, and the acting.

The irony is that yes, there are guitars and dulcimers, mandolins, and other string instruments, but the music moved my heart and my body.

Darlin’ Cory is more Faulkner than hootenanny. And like Faulkner, it’s terrific.

Book by Phillip DePoy, music by Sugarland’s Grammy-Award winning front man, Kristian Bush, “Darlin’ Cory” runs at the Alliance Theatre until Oct. 3.

Cast:

Jeremy Aggers
Jimez Alexander
Marcello Audino
John bobek
Jewl Carney
Katie Deal
Kelli Dodd
Rob Lawhon
Rhyn Mclemore
Gillian Rabin
Maria Rodriguez-Sager
Asia Rogers